Japan and the United States on Monday resumed bilateral talks on a Pacific free trade pact in Tokyo, aiming to bridge remaining differences as far as possible before officials from all 12 negotiating members gather in Canada later this week.
Tokyo and Washington, the two biggest economies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership framework, will discuss tariffs on Japan’s key farm products and trade barriers in the auto sector — the biggest sticking points — during the three-day working-level negotiations.
The focus is on whether the two sides can resolve differences on tariffs and safeguard measures on imports of beef and pork, one of Japan’s five off-limits farm product categories, people involved in the negotiations said.
Japan is considering drastically reviewing tariffs on U.S. beef and pork, but it wants to introduce safeguard measures should imports of the products surge under the TPP. Tokyo and Washington have yet to agree on details, according to the people.
The latest round of Japan-U.S. talks come in the run-up to a plenary TPP meeting taking place from Thursday in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, which trade observers say will be a crucial session for an early conclusion of the pact.
Whether a ministerial meeting, which usually follows working-level talks, will take place later depends on progress made in Ottawa, Akira Amari, Japan’s minister in charge of the TPP, has said.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama, who has put the TPP at the core of his strategic shift to Asia, said Washington envisions the 12 countries producing a document on the initiative in time for his trip to Asia in November.