The United States is urging Japan to eliminate tariffs on all farm products except rice in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The United States has also suggested a moratorium of around 10 years before the elimination of Japanese tariffs on farm products other than rice, but Japan has rejected the proposal, according to the sources.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told Akira Amari, Japan’s minister in charge of TPP negotiations, during telephone talks in late October that the United States wants Japan to eliminate tariffs on all farm products other than rice no matter how long it takes, but Amari responded that it would be impossible, the sources said.
Officials of the two countries are slated to meet in the United States from Thursday to see whether they can meet halfway on the issue, the sources added.
The U.S.-led TPP framework aims to eliminate all tariffs, but Japan has been seeking to protect its agricultural sector by retaining tariffs on imports of rice, wheat, beef, pork, dairy products and sugar. Rice, a staple part of the Japanese diet, is a particularly important farm product for Japan and is subject to 778 percent tariffs.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been facing difficulties in dealing with the issue amid farmers’ fierce opposition to concessions on the sensitive products.
Japan, the United States and 10 other countries involved in the TPP negotiations will hold a meeting of top TPP negotiators in Salt Lake City in the United States from Nov. 19 to 24 and ministerial talks in Singapore from Dec. 7 to 9, with the aim of concluding the TPP talks by year-end.
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