Japan, U.S. take ‘step forward’ in beef, pork tariffs talks


Japan and the United States have taken a “step forward” in negotiations over Tokyo’s proposal to maintain tariffs on beef and pork under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but severe hurdles remain, a Japanese trade official said.

Both governments will continue trying to strike a deal, Hiroshi Oe, deputy chief TPP negotiator, said Tuesday after wrapping up two days of talks with his U.S. counterpart, Wendy Cutler.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives released a statement saying both governments “continued to make some progress in narrowing the gaps on treatment of a range of agricultural products.”

“We took one step forward,” but there remains problems that appear very difficult to solve, Oe said, without elaborating on the negotiations over such issues as Japan’s desire to introduce safeguard measures for beef and pork.

Oe said the Japanese and U.S. officials have finished sorting out issues over market access under the 12-country TPP framework and are now delving into specifics, such as “trying to put numerals in the blanks.”

Both sides are confident the momentum will continue to the next round, Oe indicated.

“The path ahead of us still seems bumpy, but we began climbing toward the summit,” he said.

The next round of talks has yet to be scheduled, according to Oe.

He said that he and Cutler, who serves as acting deputy trade representative, also discussed Japan’s envisaged exceptional tariffs on what Tokyo considers the sensitive agricultural product categories of rice, wheat, dairy products and sugar.

Japan has told the U.S. it will keep tariffs on these farm products even under the TPP. The gap has been a thorny issue between the two largest economies in the U.S.-led initiative.

Japan has been considering lowering tariffs on beef and pork under a TPP deal and demanded the United States allow it to introduce measures to protect domestic livestock farmers that would limit imports of the products should they surge.

Japan and the United States are among the 12 countries working to strike the deal that would cover some 40 percent of global economic output. The others are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.