Japan decides to keep tariffs on beans in TPP trade talks

Japan has decided to retain the tariffs it levies on imported beans in the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

While the TPP aims to eliminate all tariffs, the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party plan to designate domestically produced beans along with rice and some other farm products as sensitive items that the country aims to protect through tariffs on imports.

The beans, including kidney beans and azuki beans, are typically grown in crop rotation, whereby different crops are produced in succession in the same field so as to keep the soil fertile. Potatoes, wheat and sugar beet are other products grown under the rotation system.

The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party deem an influx of cheap imported beans could devastate the country's crop rotation system and the production of other crops, according to the sources.

The plan emerged while Japan is reviewing the possibility of eliminating tariffs on some of the 586 tariff lines it imposes on it's five key farm products -- rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar.

While the five farm products had been considered the only untouchable products in the tariff negotiations, the beans, accounting for 16 tariff lines in total, could replace some of the items in those key sectors, the sources said.

Japan plans to further review whether there are other items outside of the five key farm products that need protection by retaining tariffs, they said.

After holding 19 rounds of talks, the TPP negotiations have reached an advanced stage, and the 12 member countries reiterated their pledge to conclude a deal by the yearend during a summit in Bali, Indonesia earlier this month.

The 12 countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.