Japan and the United States will resume working-level talks in Tokyo from Tuesday to try to find common ground over a Pacific free trade pact, with U.S. President Barack Obama due to arrive in Tokyo the following day.
The fresh round of negotiations, which would be the last chance to break the stalemate before the leaders of the two nations meet, comes after Tokyo and Washington failed to resolve their differences over key outstanding issues during ministerial talks held in Washington last week.
U.S. trade officials are arriving in Tokyo on Monday afternoon, and Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler is expected to engage in full-fledged discussions with Hiroshi Oe, Japanese deputy chief TPP negotiator, from Tuesday.
The two sides are aiming to secure a bilateral deal — seen as necessary to reach a broader 12-country agreement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership — at the summit between Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday. But they are still struggling to find common ground mainly on the issue of market access for Japanese beef and pork.
Japan’s economy minister Akira Amari said after meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in Washington last week that they still have “big differences,” although “the gaps are getting smaller.”
According to negotiation sources, Japan is considering a plan to cut its tariffs on beef imports from the United States to around 15 percent from the current 38.5 percent.
The latest proposal, if accepted by Washington, would give U.S. beef exporters better access to the Japanese market compared to Australia, with which Japan has recently agreed in a bilateral free trade deal to lower its beef tariffs by up to half.
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