US, Japan say trade talks wouldn't exempt areas

The United States and Japan said Friday that talks on a Pacific-wide free trade pact would not make prior exemptions of sectors, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pledges in the last election.

Abe, paying his first visit to Washington since his Liberal Democratic Party swept back to power, did not make any commitment on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks but heard that Washington would not budge.

"The two governments confirm that should Japan participate in the TPP negotiations, all goods would be subject to negotiation," said a joint statement after Abe met with US President Barack Obama.

But the statement acknowledged "sensitivities" on both ends, including agricultural products for Japan and manufactured goods for the United States.

"As the final outcome will be determined during the negotiations, it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations," it said.

Obama has championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a way to build a new modern trade pact and shape the order of the dynamic Asia-Pacific region, although critics complain that few details have emerged from negotiations.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled for decades with strong support from farmers, said during the December election campaign that it would only enter talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership if areas were exempted.

Abe's predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda, had been enthusiastic about the trade pact but hesitated to enter talks formally when faced with strong opposition from farmers' groups, who fear unprecedented foreign competition.

The participation of Japan, the world's third largest economy, would sharply expand the size of the trade pact.

The talks now includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.