Break the Deadlock: Japan-US TPP Negotiations

The U.S. and Japan need to reach a final decision and break the deadlock in the TPP negotiations.

The U.S. and Japan have concluded a cabinet meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Despite attaining some definite progress, no agreement could be reached on key points in the rice industry and automotive fields. Both the U.S. and Japan should hurry to find an understanding in order to help spur on the negotiations among all 12 countries involved.

The conference between Minister of State for Economic Revitalization Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman became a marathon negotiation, beginning in the evening of April 19 and ending on the morning of April 21. With the U.S.-Japan summit meeting ahead on April 28, the effect of the serious efforts put forth to close the distance is evident. For the time being, this much seems clear.

One unresolved problem revolves around Japan’s import of U.S. rice, as the U.S. has demanded that Japan accept 175,000 tons of staple crop rice yearly. Regarding automotive parts, in a reversal of offense and defense, Japan demanded that the U.S. immediately relax tariffs on imports. Both countries have any number of reservations, but there is a real necessity for the governments of the U.S. and Japan to push forward tenaciously with the negotiations and reach some form of compromise.

Approximately 40 percent of the world’s production is tied up in the total gross domestic products of the 12 countries participating in the TPP negotiations. Recently the other countries have started paying a great deal of attention to the proceedings between the U.S. and Japan, both of which combined account for 80 percent of the GDP of involved nations.

Without an agreement between the U.S. and Japan, an agreement between all 12 countries becomes even more distant. With the U.S. presidential election coming up next year, the more that hard decisions are postponed, the greater the danger that the negotiations on the whole will drift apart. The governments of the U.S. and Japan ought to be a little more self-conscious of the fact that they have an obligation to the TPP negotiations to show leadership.

In particular, I want the U.S. to take note.

A bipartisan group in the U.S. Congress has introduced a Trade Promotion Authority bill that confers broad powers of negotiation in trade matters onto the president. Via these powers, the president is able to approve trade agreements made with foreign nations without prior explicit approval from Congress. The countries participating in the TPP negotiations have asked the U.S. to first approve the TPA. The TPA is also indispensable for drawing out some form of compromise from emerging nations that are in conflict with the U.S. over issues like intellectual property rights. The U.S. administration needs to put its full strength behind persuading members of the opposition in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The objective of the TPP is not just the elimination/reduction of tariffs, but involves a wide range of topics, including services, competition policy and intellectual property. Those involved need a reminder that the creation of rules that will serve as high-functioning, next-generation global standards for trade and investment constitutes a project that is strategically critical for the development of this region, as well as for the development of Japan.

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