TOKYO -- Japan and the U.S. will open working-level talks Tuesday to hash out an agreement on sticking points in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, aiming to keep the effort afloat.
Hiroshi Oe, the Japanese side's deputy chief negotiator, will begin talks with Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler in Japan on Tuesday. They hope to lay out a general direction Friday, with an overall framework to be built at the ministerial-level talks in Singapore from Feb. 22 to Feb. 25.
"We're being pressed very strongly to lift tariffs on products such as beef and pork," said Akira Amari, Japan's minister for economic and fiscal policy, in a Sunday interview with The Nikkei.
"It'll be difficult to protect all of" the 586 products under five categories on which Japan is trying to retain duties, Amari said. He plans to propose ending or decreasing tariffs on some agricultural products.
But Washington is pushing Tokyo to do away with all tariffs. It is particularly insistent on removing duties in two of the five categories: beef and pork, and dairy products. The quintet also includes rice, wheat and sugar.
Last year, the committees on agriculture, forestry and fisheries in both houses of the Diet passed resolutions against removing tariffs on the five categories. The talks will come down to figuring out how to bring the negotiations into line with this decision, Amari says.
Another source in the Japanese government points out that both sides had agreed, in talks last February between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama, to give consideration to certain sensitive items.
Discussions are thus expected to center on proposals for lowering tariffs on some of the five categories, but this alone might not satisfy Washington. The aim of the TPP is to end tariffs, and U.S. negotiators see the Diet's resolutions as unfair, having come after the summit talks.
If the U.S. offers a time frame for abolishing its tariff on auto imports, Japan is prepared to end tariffs on about 95% of goods.