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2014年4月21日 (月)

日米TPP協議 首脳の決断で大筋合意目指せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:05 pm, April 20, 2014
Japan, U.S. need to compromise to reach broad TPP agreement
日米TPP協議 首脳の決断で大筋合意目指せ

The rocky negotiations between Japan and the United States over the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade initiative have reached a crucial stage, with both sides showing willingness to compromise on agricultural issues—one of the biggest issues in their talks. It is important for them to make further efforts to find common ground.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama, who are scheduled to hold talks Thursday in Tokyo, must exercise leadership toward forging an ambitious accord to promote a high level of free trade.

Three days of talks on the bilateral pact between Akira Amari, state minister in charge of TPP affairs, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman ended Friday in Washington.

The meeting was important in that it was intended to pave the way for an agreement ahead of the Japan-U.S. summit meeting, but the sides failed to conclude a broad agreement again, following bilateral ministerial talks early this month in Tokyo.

“There was certain progress, but the two sides remained substantially far apart,” Amari said after the talks. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative also said in a statement, “We are now faced with a reasonable number of outstanding issues. These issues are important to both sides and considerable differences remain.”

Japan and the United States will hold working-level talks right up to the summit meeting, and how much they can bury their differences within the limited time frame will be tested.

The round of ministerial talks in Washington failed to reach an accord mainly because of a persistent tug-of-war they engaged in over five agricultural categories, which, the Liberal Democratic Party insists, should be exempted from tariff removal.

U.S. steadfast on beef, pork

The United States has shown a lenient attitude over rice, wheat and sweetener resource products by not demanding that tariffs on the categories be eliminated, but reportedly steadfastly insisted that Japan drastically reduce tariffs on beef and pork imports.

Japan, on the other hand, resisted the demand for a major reduction in the tariffs but tried to find common ground by compromising as much as it could, according to sources. But as the two sides remained far apart over stipulating conditions for invoking safeguard actions when either country sees a surge in imports, they apparently decided they needed more time to narrow differences.

With the November midterm congressional elections approaching, trade protectionist pressures are rising in the United States, prodding the Obama administration to lean toward a hard-line stance against Japan. Japan’s livestock farmers are also alarmed by the prospect for liberalizing their markets further. The circumstances apparently make it difficult for the two nations to readily compromise.

But if both sides maintain unyielding stances, they will not be able to find a way out of this impasse.

In addition to placing importance on concluding a TPP agreement, Obama has been pushing a policy of expanding U.S. exports. Abe, for his part, was enthusiastic about reaching a TPP accord by making TPP a pillar of Japan’s growth strategy.

The time is ripe for the Japanese and U.S. leaders to bridge their gaps from a broad perspective to stimulate the vigor of the Asia-Pacific region under the leadership of the two nations.

A prolonged confrontation between the two nations could set TPP negotiations adrift. Ten other participants in TPP negotiations, including Australia, are closely watching how Japan-U.S. negotiations will turn out.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2014)


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