US and Japan need further work to resolve differences on autos and farm exports that are hindering progress toward a Pacific Rim trade deal


The and Japan need further work to resolve differences on autos
and farm exports that are hindering progress toward a Pacific Rim trade
deal, US Trade Representative said Tuesday (local time).
and Japan’s economy minister, , held talks that dragged into
the wee hours but failed to close the gap, though both said they had
made significant progress.
“The gap was substantially narrowed but continued work is ultimately required to resolve these issues,” Froman told reporters.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman (left) with Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari in Tokyo. Photo / AP
talks between Japan and the US are part of negotiations among 12
nations participating in the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership, which
eventually aims to create a free trade zone in the .

Amari said the talks were in their final stages, however,
neither official gave details on the discussions, which have been kept
largely secret, as required by the ground rules of the TPP negotiations.
traveled to Japan for the talks after Amari said he believed the two
could make progress on issues requiring Cabinet-level decisions. The
talks began soon after his arrival Sunday. He is due to travel to South
Korea later Tuesday.
Japan wants greater market opening for its
exports of autos and auto parts. The US hopes to export more rice, pork
and other farm products to Japan.
Amari earlier said that some of
the remaining issues between Japan and the US would likely be resolved
at upcoming 12-nation talks. He has downplayed the possibility of a deal
with the US before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Washington later
this month.
An agreement by US lawmakers last week to propose
legislation allowing President Barack Obama to negotiate trade accords
for overall congressional review appeared to help move things along.
the outset of the TPP talks, Japan identified five categories of
agricultural products as “sensitive,” given its longstanding protections
for politically powerful farm interests. They include beef and pork,
wheat and barley, sugar, rice and dairy products.
Rice has proven an especially difficult area for compromise.
An aging population and changing tastes mean Japan is consuming less and less rice, and has a significant surplus of its own.
city-dwelling, price-conscious consumers would likely welcome cheaper
rice and dairy and meat products, but lack the political sway of the
rural electorate that has been the mainstay of support for Abe’s Liberal
Democratic Party since the 1950s.
But Japanese media reports
Friday suggested that Japan would likely agree to increase its imports
of American-grown rice, while keeping costly price supports to protect
local farmers.

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