TPP's hurdles come down to rice, intellectual property
TOKYO -- The 12 nations participating in ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact will meet Friday in Hawaii, aiming to strike a broad agreement by the end of the month.
The countries still have obstacles to overcome, including differences over intellectual property. The U.S. insists on protecting data on drug development for 12 years, but a group consisting mainly of emerging countries wants five.
On a bilateral level, Japan and the U.S. are set to tackle a major sticking point over rice -- they have already agreed to strive to remove tariffs on roughly half of Japanese autoparts imported to the U.S.
Concerns also include slow bilateral progress by Canada with the U.S. and Japan due largely to the country's hard-line positions on farm imports.
Chief negotiators from the 12 nations will meet Friday through Monday, followed by a four-day ministerial session starting Tuesday.
"This round of negotiation will be the final phase of TPP talks," Japanese chief negotiator Koji Tsuruoka said Wednesday shortly before his departure to the U.S. island. "The remainder comes down to the extent that political decisions can be made," he added, referring to agreements reached among the ministers.
One such area for Japan and the U.S. involves the level of a tariff-free Japanese quota for U.S.-grown rice. The U.S. has demanded 175,000 tons but Japan has insisted on capping the quota at 50,000 tons.
Earlier this month, Japan started exploring options for increasing the quota. "We do not want the kind of solution where the numbers are added up and divided by two," said Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari.
Rice consumption in Japan has been falling by 80,000 tons a year. An industry source said a 100,000-ton quota would be "unbearable." Japan is likely to hold its ground until the last minute in an effort to minimize the impact on the country's agriculture industry.