WASHINGTON, April 18, 2014 – USA Rice Federation says there’s been no confirmation of Japanese media reports that U.S negotiators allowed Japan to maintain import restrictions on American rice as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

According to the reports, Japan agreed to allow increased access for U.S. rice in exchange for taking full elimination of Japan’s import duties off the table.

"We have advocated since the beginning of TPP for a significant increase in the quantity and quality of access for U.S. rice in Japan,” USA Rice Federation CEO Betsy Ward said in a post on the group’s website. “This means new access for U.S. rice sold in Japan free of interference by the Japanese government."  She said the group remains in contact with U.S. negotiators to press industry priorities.

Currently, Japan imposes a 770,000-ton import quota on rice, all of which is tariff-free. Beyond that, though, the country places a prohibitive 778 percent tariff on foreign rice.

 “We understand the political sensitivity of rice in Japan and we seek a pragmatic solution,” Ward said, adding, “We take nothing for granted.”

According to a number of trade and business groups, the 12-nation TPP talks are currently stymied by U.S.-Japan disagreements. At issue are tariffs and quotas for agriculture products and automobiles.

U.S. and Japanese officials just completed another round of negotiations in Washington, D.C., which United States Trade Representative Michael Froman called “focused but difficult.”

We have worked to be as creative as possible to address Japan’s political sensitivities, while pursuing the overall objective of achieving meaningful access to its market – a goal that all TPP partners share,” Froman during a meeting with Akira Amari, the Japanese minister for economic and fiscal policy. “We look to Japan to make similar efforts.” 

This story was updated at 4:30 pm.


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