The U.S. trade chief said Tuesday that the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative aims at a higher level of trade liberalization than the accord reached by Japan and Australia, playing down the impact of the bilateral agreement on the broader TPP negotiations.
“I don’t think it (the Japan-Australia free trade agreement) has much effect one way or the other” on the 12-country TPP talks, said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who is slated to meet with his Japanese counterpart Akira Amari in Tokyo on Wednesday to discuss outstanding TPP issues.
Referring to the reduction of Japanese tariffs on Australian beef agreed by the two countries, Froman said he is “looking for a level of an ambition in TPP that is significantly higher than that.”
Froman was speaking to reporters as he arrived at Narita airport near Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon.
Tokyo and Canberra, both involved in the U.S.-led TPP talks, reached a broad agreement Monday on a bilateral free trade accord after seven years of negotiations, which some trade observers say could spur the TPP talks that have become bogged down amid bickering between Tokyo and Washington over Japanese tariffs on beef and pork, rice, wheat, sugar and dairy products.
Japan has decided to slash its tariff on Australian frozen beef, mainly used for processed food for restaurants, to 19.5 percent in 18 years and that on chilled beef, sold in supermarkets, to 23.5 percent in 15 years, both from the current 38.5 percent, giving Australia preferential treatment in the Japanese market compared with the United States.