U.S. warns Japan against setting tariff removal exceptions

A senior official at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Friday warned Japan against excluding its sensitive farm products from tariff elimination under the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

In an interview with Kyodo News, the official said Washington is assured of Tokyo's resolve to achieve high-standard trade liberalization under the TPP.

The U.S. government notified Congress last Wednesday of its intent to include Japan in the TPP talks, which now involve 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, paving the way for Tokyo to join the multilateral negotiations in late July.

The official said Japan recognizes the fact that trans-Pacific free trade talks by the existing members have entered the final stage and that Tokyo's participation will not delay the conclusion of the negotiations aimed for later this year.

During TPP negotiations, Japan is set to seek exemptions to the zero-tariff principle so that it can maintain barriers to protect certain domestic industries, especially the farming sector, from a potential influx of cheap foreign products once trade is liberalized.

The official reiterated that sensitive items of all member countries have been subject to trade liberalization negotiations and that the treatment of such products will be decided in future TPP talks.

The United States will solicit opinions from the public and hold hearings on Japan's entry into TPP talks, according to the USTR official.

Along with multilateral TPP talks, Washington will start bilateral, parallel negotiations with Tokyo to address concerns in the automotive sector and over nontariff barriers, the official added.