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2014年4月27日 (日)

日米共同声明 TPP決着へ「大胆な」決断を

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:36 pm, April 26, 2014
Follow up Japan-U.S. summit with bold moves to conclude TPP
日米共同声明 TPP決着へ「大胆な」決断を

Discussions that unusually continued for many hours after the Japan-U.S. summit’s conclusion resulted Friday in a major step toward a bilateral accord that will pave the way for concluding rocky negotiations to seal the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Leveraging their bilateral talks, Japan and the United States must make further efforts to reach an agreement among all 12 nations participating in TPP talks, including Australia.

The Japanese and U.S. governments issued a joint statement from the summit talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama one day later than scheduled.

It is significant that the Japan-U.S. joint statement clearly said the two countries “have identified a path forward on important bilateral TPP issues,” marking a “key milestone” in the TPP negotiations.

The summit talks held Thursday failed to reach an agreement on TPP issues. But after Akira Amari, state minister in charge of TPP issues, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman continued negotiations into the predawn hours of Friday at the instruction of their leaders, the two nations managed to issue the joint statement just before Obama was to depart Japan.

Abe, who views the TPP as a pillar of the government’s growth strategy, said the joint statement “marks a groundbreaking achievement.” His comments indicated that he was satisfied in the end with the progress made.

Japan and the United States plan to urge the other 10 nations to work toward an early conclusion of the TPP talks. At stake is whether ministerial talks among the 12 nations, to be held as early as next month, will be able to reach a broad agreement at long last. We urge the 12 countries to further promote free trade by instituting a new set of trade and investment rules in the Asia-Pacific region.

Still work ahead

The joint statement stressed that “there is still much work to be done to conclude TPP” and that the two nations are committed to “taking the bold steps necessary” to complete an ambitious accord—suggesting that the two sides need further talks to bury their differences.

The biggest issue at the bilateral talks was how to treat the five agricultural product categories that Japan insisted should be exempted from tariff removal.

There are signs that Japan will be able to maintain tariffs on rice, wheat and sweetener resource products, in principle. But in addition to asking for major cuts on tariffs imposed on U.S. beef and pork, the United States is demanding that Japan relax its safety standards to allow a certain number of American cars to be exported there—issues over which the negotiators from both sides vehemently clashed.

It is difficult for the two sides to readily make compromises in the face of opposition from their domestic industries. We commend their efforts to find common ground in the eleventh-hour negotiations.

However, we are concerned that there are no prospects in sight of the U.S. Congress passing legislation to grant trade promotion authority (TPA) to Obama. Without congressional approval of the TPA legislation, it is feared that Congress will not give its nod to any final TPP deal. Obama has a difficult balancing act to perform ahead of the U.S. midterm congressional elections in November.

With a deep schism between the advanced nations and emerging economies such as Malaysia over certain issues, there is not much room for optimism heading into the final phase of negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2014)


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