Japanese Economics Minister Akira Amari said Tuesday that he sees significant distance toward a broad agreement on trade with the U.S., something that is seen as vital to a wider regional pact, Reuters reported.
Japan and the United States resumed working-level talks in Tokyo on Tuesday. This fresh round of negotiations comes after Tokyo and Washington failed to resolve differences during ministerial talks in Washington last week, the Japan Times reported.
A TPP deal is pivotal to U.S. President Barack Obama's policy of expanding the U.S.'s presence in Asia, and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has touted it as a key component of his economic-growth game plan.
Obama has a visit scheduled in Tokyo from Wednesday through Friday.The nations sides are aiming to secure a bilateral deal -- seen as necessary to reach the 12-country agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- at a summit between Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, according to the Japan Times. And the main sticking point remains market access for Japanese beef and pork.
According to negotiation sources, Japan is considering cutting tariffs on beef imports from the United States to around 15 percent from the current 38.5 percent, the Japan Times reported. The latest proposal, if accepted by the U.S., would give U.S. beef exporters improved access to the Japanese market compared with Australia, with which Japan has recently agreed in a bilateral free trade deal to lower its beef tariffs by up to half, the Times added.
But Washington is calling on Tokyo to lower its tariffs to under 10 percent after giving up on its demand for the complete abolishment of beef tariffs, and it's unlikely that the U.S. will accept the current proposal, the sources noted.