Business

Japan proposes tariff cuts on U.S. pork imports; TPP meeting planned

Kyodo

The Japanese government has proposed sharply cutting its tariff on a certain amount of U.S. pork over a 10-year period in talks with the United States on the Asia-Pacific free trade initiative, sources said Sunday.

The 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative are planning to hold a ministerial meeting in mid-March, with Singapore emerging as a candidate host country, sources close to the negotiations said Sunday.

Tokyo also proposed a safeguard system during ministerial-level negotiations with Washington in September, a measure which will be triggered if pork imports from the United States exceed a quota to be set, they said.

The lower tariff will be applied to the quota Japan plans to set based on the current level of pork imported from the United States, they said.

While the proposal is a sign of Japan’s concession in one of the trade areas involving politically sensitive farm products in talks on the TPP, sources say Washington may pressure Tokyo into setting the low-tariff quota at a level higher than Japan is entertaining.

Japan’s offer pertains to lower-priced pork imports, the sources said.

It has proposed to incrementally cut its tariff of ¥482 (about $4) per kilogram for such pork from the United States to ¥50 over 10 years.

As a safeguard measure to deal with a possible surge in imports, the tariff will be raised to ¥100 per kilogram for imports exceeding the quota, the sources said.

If U.S. pork imports exceed the quota when the tariff is still above ¥100 during the 10-year period, the import duty will be raised back to ¥482, they added.

The two countries are expected to discuss the matter at working-level talks from Monday in Washington.

Bilateral talks between Japan and the United States have been deadlocked due to differences over issues related to market access for agricultural products and autos, holding up broader TPP negotiations.

Howard Hill, head of the National Pork Producers Council in the United States, has recently said “significant progress” has been made in U.S.-Japan TPP talks on pork market access.

Japan has sought to retain tariffs on rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar, though the U.S.-led TPP aims for abolition of all tariffs in principle.

The other 10 TPP negotiating members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru and Vietnam.