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2014年9月27日 (土)

TPP協議 進展阻む米国の対日強硬姿勢


The Yomiuri Shimbun
United States’ hard-line stance toward Japan blocking progress in TPP talks
TPP協議 進展阻む米国の対日強硬姿勢

The creation of a new free trade framework has shuddered to a standstill just as the finish line is coming into sight. Some bold, mutual concessions will be needed to get the negotiations moving forward again.

Japan-U.S. ministerial talks regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have been held in Washington. The meeting ended with both sides unable to come to an agreement.

This round of talks had aimed to settle several contentious issues whose resolution is proving elusive to the end, including the conditions that would trigger the implementation of Japanese safeguards that would return tariff rates on U.S. beef and pork to their original high levels if imports of these meats surged.

“Our side put forward some flexible proposals, but we were unable to achieve any progress,” Akira Amari, state minister in charge of TPP trade negotiations, said after the talks. Amari indicated that efforts by his counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, to make concessions had been insufficient.

“Looking ahead, we will speed up bilateral talks” with other nations, Amari added. However, Japan and the United States are spearheading the TPP negotiations. If they are unable to reach a formal bilateral agreement, overall talks involving the 12 nations at the TPP table will not move forward.

The TPP nations aim to reach a broad agreement in November. Failure by Tokyo and Washington to reach a compromise at these talks has muddied the waters over whether this goal will be achieved.

We think Japan and the United States should quickly resume negotiations and reach a final deal.

Domestic pressure at play

Behind the obstinacy displayed by the U.S. side are midterm elections scheduled for Nov. 4, which have made it difficult to offer compromises to Japan.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is facing growing calls from Congress and industry groups to maintain an unbending stance during negotiations.

Amid these demands, some politically powerful livestock industry groups and lawmakers with ties to them have even suggested Japan should be excluded from TPP negotiations if it does not agree to eliminate all tariffs on agricultural products.

How can these domestic, excessively anti-Japan hard-liners be quieted? Obama’s leadership qualities will be tested in the quest for compromise in the negotiations.

Also worrying is the fact that Congress has refused to grant Trade Promotion Authority to the president, due to opposition from the ruling Democratic Party and other reasons.

Consequently, there are lingering concerns that even if Japan-U.S. TPP talks come to a positive conclusion, the agreement could be scrapped due to opposition in Congress. We hope Obama will take responsibility and persuade the Democratic Party to help grant him TPA at an early date.

If the TPP comes into being, it will create a massive economic bloc in the Asia-Pacific region that accounts for about 40 percent of global gross domestic product. The significance of this cannot be understated.

Lowering tariffs and establishing common rules for trade and investment are expected to invigorate the economies of the participating nations.

The TPP member countries also have strategic objectives of contributing to regional stability and keeping a rein on China, whose economic might is growing.

Each country taking part in international negotiations will, of course, pursue their own national interests. However, now that the TPP talks are in the final stage, it is important that all sides make concessions from a broad perspective and reach an agreement.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2014)Speech


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