Japan proposes making nearly 90% of items tariff-free for U.S.

Japan has proposed to the United States eliminating tariffs on nearly 90 percent of items in bilateral negotiations under the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, an informed source said Wednesday.

The percentage of tariff-free items would top the 88.4 percent Japan agreed to eliminate within 10 years with the Philippines, which has been the highest level among the 13 existing free trade agreements concluded by Japan.

Japan and the United States are planning to hold a bilateral session on tariffs in Washington from Friday through Monday in parallel with a chief negotiators' session on sorting issues in the TPP negotiations from Wednesday through Saturday.

Japan has already exchanged a list of proposed tariff-free items with Brunei, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Singapore during the 19th round of TPP negotiations in August. The offers made at the time were around 80 percent.

As Japan faces strong domestic pressure to protect its agricultural sector, tariffs on key farm products such as rice were apparently excluded from the latest offer.

If Japan eliminates all tariffs except for the sensitive categories of rice, beef, pork, dairy products and sugar, the tariff-free percentage would rise to 93.5 percent.

The 12 TPP members -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam -- are seeking to reach a basic agreement in October and conclude a deal by the year-end.