Trade officials from Japan and the United States resumed talks Wednesday on greater market access for agricultural products and autos under the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative.
The fresh round of negotiations come after leaders failed to make progress on the TPP at an unrelated summit in November in Beijing, with Japan and the United States, the group’s largest economies, struggling to see eye to eye in several areas.
Economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari said this month he hopes to hold a ministerial meeting by early spring to cut a deal given that the United States will enter campaign mode later this year toward the 2016 presidential election.
He added that a bilateral agreement between Tokyo and Washington is a “prerequisite” to that end.
John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. Senate, said Tuesday that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told lawmakers the TPP deal is “on a two-month trajectory,” though the trade office said there is no set time frame for the negotiations, Reuters reported.
The United States has insisted that Japan drastically open up its agricultural market, while Tokyo is seeking to exempt key farm products — rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy and sugar — from tariff abolition.
Japan’s deputy chief negotiator, Hiroshi Oe, and acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler are expected to discuss issues including how to deal with Japanese tariffs on beef and pork, and to safeguard measures Tokyo wants to introduce should imports of the products surge under the TPP.
The two sides are also at odds over U.S. tariffs on automotive parts and the elimination of nontariff barriers in Japan’s auto sector. Takeo Mori, ambassador in charge of economic diplomacy, will attend negotiations on auto trade.
The Foreign Ministry said it is unclear when the latest round of negotiations will wrap up.
The other 10 TPP negotiating members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru and Vietnam.