Japan, U.S. wrap up 1st TPP-linked talks on trade barriers

Japan and the United States wrapped up Friday their first round of bilateral trade negotiations that are linked to the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations involving 10 other nations.

The three-day talks, covering autos, insurance and nine non-tariff barriers, were held in parallel to the TPP negotiations Japan joined last month.

Takeo Mori, ambassador for economic diplomacy and head of the Japanese delegates, indicated there was much more work to do before the two sides can reach an agreement.

"As we are at the stage of narrowing down issues, we have yet to reach the stage for forging an agreement or finding common ground," Mori told reporters after the round.

He added the talks covered all the issues that the two sides had agreed to put on the table and did not include those related to labeling food products using genetically modified organisms.

The timing of the next round has not been decided yet as the two sides need time to digest what was discussed in the latest talks, he said.

The U.S. delegation was headed by Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler.

The bilateral dialogue was agreed after a request from the United States, which has been seeking the further opening up of the Japanese market through the establishment of unified auto safety standards and other regulations.

What has been agreed between the two regarding the automotive sector will be reflected in the TPP negotiations, while the agreement regarding the nontariff measures will be implemented through other means.

"As the debates in the parallel negotiations and those in the TPP negotiations are linked to each other, we intend to work closely with the TPP team and negotiate to help serve Japan's national interest as a whole," Mori said.

The two countries announced the parallel dialogue in April, saying they had completed bilateral preparatory talks for Japan's participation in the TPP talks and agreed that U.S. tariffs on Japanese automobiles would be phased out using the longest staging period for any product in the TPP talks.

The agreement was seen as a concession by Japan in order to protect its agricultural sector in exchange, sparking concern that the country could be forced to make further concessions.

As the latest talks did not cover tariffs that Japan is keen to discuss, such as the protection of farm products, it aims to do so at the 19th round of TPP negotiations to be held from Aug. 22 to 30 in Brunei.

Japan's TPP minister Akira Amari is set to attend the ministerial meeting held on the first two days of the Brunei round, as well as bilateral negotiations to be held during the period.

The current TPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.