Japan is proposing to set a 70,000-ton tariff-free import quota for U.S. rice in bilateral talks for a Pacific free trade agreement, in return for maintaining a high tariff on the country’s staple food, negotiation sources said Saturday.
The proposed quota is lower than the 175,000 tons demanded by the United States ahead of a ministerial meeting starting Tuesday of all 12 countries seeking to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Greater access to Japan’s rice market and U.S. tariffs on automotive parts are the key remaining issues left to be resolved between Tokyo and Washington.
Japan currently imports 770,000 tons a year of rice free of tariff, equivalent to around 7 percent of consumption. Of that rice, 100,000 tons are bought for consumption as cooked rice, and the remainder for processing.
Japan is proposing to separately set a 50,000-ton zero-tariff quota for U.S. rice to be imported as the food staple, with the amount gradually increasing to 70,000 tons over 10 years or longer, the sources said.
Japan would not necessarily buy the amount set by the quota, allowing the actual amount purchased to change each year depending on rice demand in Japan, they said.
For Australia, which is also demanding increased access to Japan’s rice market, Tokyo plans to set a zero-tariff quota equivalent to 12 percent of that for the United States, the sources said. As a result, the total quota for zero-tariff rice imports would be 80,000 tons, they said.
Other TPP members are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
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