• Kyodo


Japan’s minister in charge of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks said Friday he will meet with his U.S. counterpart in Washington next week as they accelerate efforts to resolve outstanding issues before the Japan-U.S. summit later this month.

Akira Amari and Michael Froman decided to hold talks again after they failed to move closer over key TPP issues in their 18-hour talks from Wednesday to Thursday in Tokyo.

The news comes after negotiation sources said Thursday that the United States has given up on demanding that Japan remove its 38.5 percent tariffs on beef in bilateral negotiations related to the 12-country Pacific free trade talks.

Although Washington, which has been seeking the removal of all tariffs in the U.S.-led trade liberalization talks, is now calling on Japan to cut its beef tariffs to less than 10 percent, Tokyo has not agreed to the proposed cut because the reduction is much sharper than the one agreed to on Monday by Japan and Australia for their FTA, the sources said.

Japan and the United States, the two biggest economies in the multilateral initiative, have been at odds over auto trade and Japan’s tariffs on five “sacred” types of farm goods.

After the marathon discussions with Amari, Froman told reporters they had “made some progress over the last two days, but there are still considerable differences” on market access for farm products and autos, the biggest sticking points.

A summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 24 is seen as an opportunity to advance the talks, which have been held up by their bilateral bickering.

In a related move, the second-highest ranking official in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party signaled that Tokyo would not cut its duties on American beef — one of Washington’s main interests — to below those it set with Canberra for the FTA, amid strong pressure from Washington to make greater efforts to eliminate trade barriers

If the TPP pact “deviates from the level of (Japan’s) agreement with Australia . . . that would concern a matter of fidelity” to Canberra, Shigeru Ishiba, LDP secretary-general, said at a press conference.

Tokyo and Canberra reached a broad free trade deal Monday that will see Japan cut its tariffs on Australia’s frozen beef to 19.5 percent and those on its chilled beef to 23.5 percent — both from the current 38.5 percent — incrementally.

Ishiba’s remarks clearly suggest a sharp cut in tariffs to less than 10 percent on American beef is out of the question.

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