Japan had to undergo an almost six-hour grilling from the other participating countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks over their refusal to budge on tariffs of sensitive farm products. The Japanese negotiators remained firm on their stand leading to fears that this will cause further delays in reaching a final free trade agreement.
Even in the negotiations between the United States and Japan, the two largest economies involved in the TPP, they are still far from reaching a compromise in the key bilateral issues. Japan’s Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Friday that there’s still a “considerable gap” between Washington and Tokyo over the automobile industry aspects for the US and the farm products for Japan. During the market access working group meeting, the negotiators from the other TPP countries bombarded Japan with questions over their willingness to open up its market for five major farm product categories – rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar. But Japan was not budging from their initial stand and for the first time made clear their position, saying it is already “enshrined” in their Diet’s resolution. This, despite earlier protestations that they were willing to concede on some points just to be able to reach a final agreement.
The working group negotiation is in preparation for the ministerial meeting that will begin on Saturday as the 13 countries – Japan, United States, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Peru, Chile, Canada, Mexico and Vietnam – try to finalize the deals this year after failing to reach a final agreement December last year. Japan’s stubbornness over the sensitive farm products is frustrating some of the other participants. An insider said, “The TPP is meant to be a high-quality, comprehensive deal with no exclusions.” They are looking at other ways on how to work around this stumbling block, but refused to divulge what are these options. Japan was the last country to join the TPP, which is the largest free trade agreement and will cover around 40% of the world’s economy.
[ via Global Post ]