Japan agrees to participate in trade talks

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan announced his country will participate in talks negotiating an Asia-Pacific free trade agreement through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which aims to boost trade by eliminating tariffs.

"We decided to join negotiations with member states over the TPP," Noda said at a news conference. "Japan should tap into the growing power of the Asia-Pacific region to hand down to future generations the affluence our country has built up as a trading nation."

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Noda made the announcement a day before leaving for Hawaii, where President Obama will host the leaders of 20 other economies for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on Saturday.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk commented on Noda's announcement today regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“To join the negotiations, Japan must be prepared to meet the TPP's high standards for liberalizing trade and to address specific issues of concern to the United States regarding barriers to agriculture, services, and manufacturing trade, including non-tariff measures,” Kirk said. “Japan's interest in the TPP demonstrates the economic and strategic importance of this initiative to the region."

If Japan decides to engage in these trade agreements, import tariffs would be slashed. Japan's agricultural imports make it the world's third-largest importer, after the United States and the European Union (EU), according to USDA Economic Research Service.

“Hopefully Japan's decision is a sign that it is firmly committed to resolving the outstanding barriers to trade between the United States and Japan, especially as it relates to our auto exports,”   said House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman David Camp (R-Mich.). “We must also address barriers to U.S. agriculture barriers - such as beef and cherries - and barriers to U.S. manufacturing and services exports. Knocking down these barriers will promote U.S. exports and support good-paying American jobs.”

Trade Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said Japan's interest in joining the TPP creates an opportunity to address a number of barriers to U.S. exports and investment.

“Like the recently passed trade agreement with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, the TPP presents a cost-free way to create American jobs and strengthen America's global influence,” Brady said.”

Noda's decision is a controversial one for Japanese agriculture, because Japanese farmers mostly work small plots of land and would struggle to compete with cheaper imports. Japan maintains tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for some commodities, including rice, wheat, butter and milk powder, according to USDA Economic Research Service. Imports outside the TRQs face high tariffs.

"I will firmly protect Japan's world-class medical system, traditional Japanese culture, and beautiful farm villages," Noda said during the press conference.


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