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2013年4月14日 (日)

日米協議決着 TPP交渉の勝負はこれから

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 14, 2013
With entry to TPP talks imminent, negotiating challenges await Japan
日米協議決着 TPP交渉の勝負はこれから(4月13日付・読売社説)

How can Japan make up for its late entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations? The government must make all-out efforts in the talks.

Japan announced Friday it has completed its bilateral preliminary consultations with the United States, which are viewed as the most crucial step for Japan to enter the TPP talks.

The U.S. administration is now set to notify Congress of its intent to accept Japan's entry into the TPP negotiations. It is expected to obtain formal approval this summer after a 90-day period for congressional procedures.

Japan's entry needs to be approved by all 11 countries currently taking part in the TPP talks.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which have yet to endorse Japan's participation, are likely to give the green light soon, finally opening the way for the nation to join the talks. We welcome the prospect that Japan likely will go to the negotiating table as early as July.

Japan makes concessions to U.S.

Among the highlights of the bilateral accord between Japan and the United States, the two countries agreed that U.S. tariffs on imports of Japanese passenger cars and trucks will be phased out over the longest period possible. This is an apparent effort to ease the U.S. auto industry's concerns over expected increases in Japanese auto imports.

The two countries also agreed that Japan will refrain from approving new products of Japan Post Insurance Co., the life insurance unit of Japan Post Holdings Co. This agreement addressed a concern among the U.S. insurance sector that business expansion of Japan Post, which is partially funded by the government, would impede fair competition.

In the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers had begun coordinating with the U.S. auto and insurance sectors and other entities to put the brakes on Japan's entry into TPP talks. We think it inevitable for Tokyo to place top priority on early entry into the TPP talks even if that results in making concessions to Washington in the bilateral consultations.

The 11 countries are aiming to conclude the TPP negotiations by the end of this year. There is not much time left for Japan. The nation will lose room to maneuver in making trade rules in the TPP framework if its participation is delayed further.

Meanwhile, Japan and the United States also confirmed in their bilateral consultations that Japan has certain trade sensitivities regarding agricultural products.

The Liberal Democratic Party has called on the government to treat five agricultural items, including rice and wheat, as exceptions to the tariff elimination being sought under the TPP framework. However, calls for trade liberalization have been strong from participating countries. Japan will be tested on the extent to which it can take advantage of its bilateral agreement with the United States to push for its stance in the negotiations.

Tough strategy needed

Japan should be wary of Australia and other countries taking up the call to postpone lowering tariffs on Japanese auto imports. This could hamper growth of Japan's exports.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting of key ministers Friday: "We'll face a real challenge to realize our national interests from now on. We'll participate in the negotiations as soon as possible and aim to take the lead in the talks."

We hope the government will enter the negotiations with a tough strategy. Above all, Japan should boost its growth by expanding free trade and taking advantage of the vitality of Asia and other regions.

In parallel with the TPP negotiations, Japan needs to accelerate efforts to beef up its agricultural sector to prepare for global competition that will come after opening markets further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 13, 2013)
(2013年4月13日01時14分  読売新聞)


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