Japan and Australia will continue negotiations on eliminating tariffs on farm products as both failed to reach an agreement during their ministerial free trade talks yesterday. The two representatives are pressed to come up with an agreement in time for the April summit between Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Speaking to reporters after the talks, Japanese Farm Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Investment Minister Andrew Robb both said they had a good talk but needed further discussions. Hayashi also added that both “exchanged honest opinions” during the “very good discussion” without elaborating further. The two are in a deadlock on how to deal with tariffs on Japanese motor vehicles and Australian beef. Japan wants a 30 percent tariff on Australian beef from the current 38.5 percent but Australia is pushing for as low as 19 percent. On the other hand, Japan is seeking for the 5 percent auto tariff to be removed by Australia but the latter’s decision will depend on Japan’s concession to the beef tariff.
Akira Amari, the Fiscal and Economic policy minister from Japan also met with Robb and the two has agreed to speed up negotiations to reach an agreement. He noted, “From my point of view, things are starting to move on” with regards to the beef tariff. In February, Robb met with a member of Japan’s ruling party while at a TPP meeting in Singapore and expressed his desire to strike a deal by April to end the seven-year negotiations. Early this March, Koya Nishikawa from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party went to Canberra and sat with Abbott over the issue of free trade. As Abe is set to visit Canberra in July, many are hopeful the two nations will sign an accord in time for that.
With the deal, Australia will be the first major farm exporting nation to have an FTA with Japan, which has been hesitant to open its agricultural market to avoid foreign competitors. In 2012 alone, 60 percent of Japan’s beef export came from Australia, making it their biggest importer of beef. Should the two come up with an agreement, many believe that it will be a game changer in the stalemate that has affected the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations led by the U.S. Japan hopes to use the agreement with Australia as leverage against the U.S. to compromise in the TPP as it seeks to increase beef and other farm produce exports to Japan.
[via Global Post]