A key government official has said on Tuesday that Japan is willing to concede several points on crucial agricultural issues as they officially begin talks with the United States in preparation for the high-level multilateral negotiations next week in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. The TPP talks between the 12 countries begin on Monday in Singapore as they attempt to reach a final agreement by this year.
Economy and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari said that it is not a negotiation if Japan will not compromise on several key issues concerning the five product categories that they are keen on protecting. “I don’t think anyone thinks there will be no change in any of the tariff lines,” he told reporters at a news conference. The US and Japan, the two biggest economies in the TPP talks, have not been able to agree on key issues like Japan’s insistence on protecting agricultural products like rice and the US’ fears of competition from Japanese brands in terms of automobiles.
Washington has been asking that Tokyo remove all tariffs from rice, beef and pork, dairy products, wheat and sugar, which involves around 586 product lines. On the other hand, Japan is looking for a timeline on the scrapping of tariffs of 2.5% on imported cars and 25% on light trucks. While the powerful farm lobby in Japan is strongly opposed to removing tariffs on agricultural products, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is looking at the TPP as the “arrow” in its Abenomics initiative that will fly the longest, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.