United States Trade Representative Michael Froman declared yesterday that Japan will need to budge soon on the issue of opening its highly protected agriculture and auto markets to overseas competition if it wants progress on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The Pacific trade pact potentially covers 30% of all global imports and exports and the US is saying that Japan’s reluctance to lower trade barriers was holding up progress on the TPP.
Despite numerous talks between the United States and Japan, Tokyo has yet to offer something substantial to the trade table, especially when the TPP specifically calls for zero tariffs and taxes on the trade table. Japan has long protected its farm goods and autos, two of the strongest lobbies at home. “It’s time for Japan to step up to the plate,” Froman told the US House Ways and Means Committee during a hearing on the US trade policy. Washington is clearly frustrated at the slow progress of negotiations on the TPP, and talks are now entering their fifth year. “All the other countries are waiting for Japan to play its appropriate role in these negotiations, and once the market access piece falls into place we expect to be able to resolve the other issues,” Froman said. There was a suggestion on the floor of the hearing that Japan should be cut out of the talks if it is not ready to make concessions.
The United States had hoped that the Pacific-wide agreement would have been completed by the end of 2013. Froman now says that the TPP, which includes Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Malaysia among others, should be completed by mid to late 2014. US President Barack Obama, scheduled to visit Japan later this month, is expected to press the TPP deal with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but US Trade officials have played down expectations for a breakthrough in the agreement.
[via Malay Mail]