US, Ja­pan say no deal on farm, auto trade but end is in sight

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY ELAINE KURTENBACH

U.S. and Ja­panese trade of­fi­cials failed to re­solve dif­fer­ences on au­tos and farm ex­ports that are hin­der­ing progress to­ward a Pa­cific Rim trade deal but say they be­lieve agree­ment is within reach.

U. S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man and Ja­pan’s Econ­omy Min­is­ter Akira Amari, held talks that dragged into the pre-dawn hours but were un­able to reach an ac­cord on in­creased ex­ports of U.S. rice to Ja­pan and of Ja­panese au­tos and auto parts to the U.S.

“The gap was sub­stan­tially nar­rowed but con­tin­ued work is ul­ti­mately re­quired to re­solve th­ese is­sues,” Fro­man told re­porters.

The talks be­tween Ja­pan and the U.S. are part of ne­go­ti­a­tions among 12 na­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in the U.S.-led Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, which even­tu­ally aims to cre­ate a free trade zone in the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion.

Amari said the talks were in their fi­nal stages. How­ever nei­ther of­fi­cial gave de­tails on the dis­cus­sions, which have been kept largely se­cret.

In New York, Daniel Rus­sell, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for East Asian and Pa­cific Af­fairs, told a gath­er­ing at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions late Mon­day that a fi­nal 12-na­tion ac­cord is within reach.

“We are within what I’d call grab­bing dis­tance of an agree­ment,” Rus­sell said in re­marks car­ried on Ja­pan’s public broad­caster, NHK. “Ev­ery leader of the 12 coun­tries is determined to close an agree­ment this year.”

Fro­man trav­eled to Ja­pan on Sun­day for the talks af­ter Amari said he be­lieved the two could make progress on is­sues re­quir­ing Cabi­net- level de­ci­sions, though he down­played the like­li­hood of a deal be­fore Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe vis­its the U. S. next week.

Amari has said some of the re­main­ing is­sues be­tween Ja­pan and the U.S. are likely to be re­solved at 12-na­tion talks in June.

An agree­ment by U.S. law­mak- ers last week to pro­pose leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to ne­go­ti­ate trade ac­cords for over­all con­gres­sional re­view ap­pears to be help­ing move things along.

At 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.

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