LAHAINA, HAWAII - Japan is proposing to set a 70,000-ton tariff-free import quota for U.S. rice in bilateral talks for a Pacific free trade agreement, in return for maintaining a high tariff on the country’s staple food, negotiation sources said Saturday.
The proposed quota is lower than the 175,000 tons demanded by the United States ahead of a ministerial meeting starting Tuesday of all 12 countries involved in talk on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Greater access to Japan’s rice market and U.S. tariffs on automotive parts are the key remaining issues left to be resolved between Tokyo and Washington.
Japan currently imports 770,000 tons a year of rice tariff-free, or around 7 percent of the total consumed. Of that rice, a volume of 100,000 tons is bought for consumption as table rice and the remainder is to designated to be used in food processing.
The nation proposes to set a 50,000-ton zero-tariff quota for imported U.S. rice, with the amount gradually increasing to 70,000 tons over a period of a decade or more, the sources said.
It will not necessarily buy the amount set by the quota, allowing the actual amount purchased to change each year depending on domestic rice demand, the sources said.
For Australia, which also demands increased access to the Japanese rice market, Tokyo plans to set a zero-tariff quota equivalent to 12 percent of that for the United States, the sources said. As a result, the total quota for zero-tariff rice imports would be 80,000 tons, they said.
Other TPP members are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.