Japan and U.S. ministers to meet for trade talks before summit

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will discuss farm and car trade when he meets Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari in Tokyo on Sunday and Monday

Japan and U.S. ministers to meet for trade talks before summit

World Bulletin / News Desk

Japan and the United States will hold cabinet-level trade talks from this weekend, but are unlikely to seal a final deal, seen as crucial for a broader trans-Pacific free trade pact, by a summit this month, Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari said on Friday.

A U.S.-Japan deal is considered vital to the success of a long-delayed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, as the two economies, the world's biggest and third-biggest, account for about 80 percent of the economic output of the 12-member TPP.

Amari said he did not expect to finalise the deal in his talks with Froman, but that it would be good if they could make enough progress to be welcomed by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when they meet in Washington on April 28.

"Leaving aside whether Japan is fully satisfied, as a result of vigorous discussions, we recognise that we have made a certain amount of progress," Amari told reporters after three days of working-level talks. "We've decided we must shift to cabinet-level discussions and make efforts to further narrow our differences."

Amari said differences remained on some of the agricultural areas Japan wants to protect - rice, beef and pork, dairy, wheat and sugarcane - as well as some areas of the U.S. car and parts market.

"We will do our utmost so that a parliament resolution (to protect the five agricultural products) can be seen to be kept," Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said.

Tokyo has said a bilateral deal would require the U.S. Congress to give Obama "fast track" authority to negotiate TPP, a pact that is central to his strategic shift toward Asia.

On Thursday, senior U.S. lawmakers agreed on the wording of a bill that would give them the opportunity to approve or reject but not to alter a TPP agreement. Still, passage of the bill remains far from assured.

The bilateral trade talks have been stymied by Japan's efforts to protect politically powerful agriculture sectors such as beef, and disputes over both countries' auto markets.

Washington and Tokyo also see strategic value to a broad TPP deal as forming a counterweight to rising China, which has not joined the group.

Asked about the TPP, Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said there was momentum in trade liberalization in the Asia-Pacific, and that China supported open regionalism.

Last Mod: 17 Nisan 2015, 17:25
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