Japan's farm tariffs no exception in TPP talks: Malaysia minister

Malaysia's trade minister has indicated Japan would eventually have to eliminate the tariffs it imposes on imported farm products despite its intention to keep them as an exception in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations it will join later this month.

International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed told Kyodo News in Tokyo on Tuesday, "We need to know how long that (agriculture) sector needs to be protected," adding, "I think there's got to be some transitional arrangement" to ease the impact of the trade liberalization.

The Japanese government estimates that Japan's agricultural output will drop by 3 trillion yen from the current total of about 7.1 trillion yen, if the tariffs are eliminated under the TPP and no compensation measures are taken.

Mustapa showed understanding for Japan's intention to protect rice and other sensitive farm products, saying every TPP country has domestic industries that need to be protected.

"We have our sensitive sector and Japan, of course, has that as well, so, by coming to the table at least we can discuss" and see if both sides can make a compromise, he said.

Japan will become the 12th member of the trade liberalization talks on July 23, during the 18th round of talks to be held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, from July 15 to 25.

Mustapa said Japan may face some difficulty in negotiating its interests when it joins the talks as "whoever comes later, they've got to accept whatever has been agreed on."

The existing TPP members -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam -- are aiming to reach a broad agreement in October and conclude a deal by the end of the year.

While Japan's upcoming participation has raised concern it could slow down the talks, Mustapa said Japan has decided to join the talks knowing the condition that what has been agreed on in the previous rounds cannot be reopened.

He admitted negotiations are becoming more difficult as they progress, but said it is still "important to have an objective" in concluding a deal.