Prospects for a comprehensive trans-Pacific trade pact appeared increasingly uncertain yesterday as the US and Japan struggled over Tokyo’s commitment to keep tariffs on hundreds of farm products.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the two sides were still trying to bridge their differences on the last day of 12-nation talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Singapore.
The Yomiuri Shimbun said US officials were considering an agreement that might initially exclude Japan after US Trade Representative Michael Froman and Japan’s delegate to the talks, Minister of State for Economic Revitalization Akira Amari, met twice in Singapore, but failed to reach a consensus on certain issues.
When Tokyo committed to joining the trade arrangement, it said it would insist on protecting key farm products.
The Yomiuri said one option may be to eliminate tariffs on products not imported before 2010.
Ministers at the four-day talks said they have made progress on finalizing the pact, but that some issues are still unsolved, with market access one of the main sticking points.
“While some issues remain, we have charted a path forward to resolve them,” New Zealand Minister of Trade Tim Groser said, reading from a joint media release at the end of yesterday’s meeting.
TPP negotiators had originally sought to reach a deal by the end of last year. When that failed, they set up the Singapore talks and Japan’s Kyodo News Service yesterday said a fresh round may be required.