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2014年9月27日 (土)

社説:TPP日米協議 交渉全体の漂流を防げ

September 26, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Don't let latest breakdown in bilateral talks halt TPP negotiations
社説:TPP日米協議 交渉全体の漂流を防げ

Japan and the United States have ended ministerial talks over a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade treaty without reaching a bilateral agreement. There's no denying that momentum for concluding the overall treaty negotiations has waned.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, in which member states' leaders will come together, is set to take place in November. It will offer a critical and final opportunity to reach a broad agreement before the end of the year. Both countries must persist in their discussions to prevent the negotiations from drifting aimlessly.

Japan and the U.S. have reached an impasse over tariffs on Japanese agricultural products and Japan's non-tariff barrier for automobiles. In particular, safeguard measures that Japan wants to institute in return for reducing tariffs on beef and pork has been a point of contention. Working-level discussions have been held repeatedly, but there remains a chasm between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the deadline that U.S. President Barack Obama has set for all participating nations to reach an agreement -- before the end of the year -- is quickly approaching. Ministerial talks by the 12 negotiating members are set to take place in October. The way they proceed will have great bearing on whether a deal will be reached at the summit the following month.

The goal of the latest meeting between Japanese minister in charge of TPP Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, was for the two countries, which have leading roles in the overall TPP initiative, to make a political breakthrough ahead of the ministerial and summit meetings.

However, while Japan displayed a certain level of compromise, it was unable to prompt similar concessions from the U.S. With U.S. midterm elections coming up in early November, agricultural organizations and Congress have stepped up calls for Japan to open its markets. It's likely that under such pressure, the U.S. trade delegation was unable to make a proposal that could be interpreted as being yielding to Japan.

Negotiations, however, by nature entail compromise. Following the talks, Amari criticized the U.S. delegation, saying the discussion could not be characterized as "mutually accommodating." It will be difficult to reach a deal if the U.S. refuses to make any concessions.

The breakdown in talks between Japan and the U.S. -- which together account for 80 percent of the GDP among the TPP negotiating countries -- has made reaching a deal before the end of the year virtually impossible. The negotiations as whole, however, must not be permitted to fade as a result.

The TPP is a framework that aims to bring high-level liberalization to a wide range of areas in trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. It also has the purpose of sharing transparent and fair economic rules, and of keeping China in check. Economic cooperation is important in the context of security as well.

Both Japan and the U.S. face harsh realities in their respective agricultural sectors. Politicians must exhibit extreme determination in order to work out an agreement. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama must reaffirm the meaning of the treaty, and exercise strong leadership.

毎日新聞 2014年09月26日 02時30分


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