Japan cannot make further concessions to U.S. in TPP talks: minister

Japan's minister in charge of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations said Sunday that Tokyo cannot make any further concessions to Washington on sensitive issues in TPP talks, after a Japan-U.S. meeting ended without progress.

"We had a very tense discussion on outstanding issues, but we reached no conclusion," Akira Amari told reporters after meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in Tokyo, suggesting they had focused especially on the issue of how to deal with tariffs on farm products.

But he declined to elaborate, saying the negotiations are confidential.

The talks came in the lead-up to a ministerial meeting slated for Dec. 7 to 10 in Singapore. While the 12 Pacific Rim negotiating countries are aiming to reach a deal by year-end, it is uncertain whether the deadline can be met as differences between Japan and the United States remain as one of the biggest hurdles.

While the U.S.-led TPP aims for the abolition of all tariffs, Japan wants to retain tariffs it imposes on five farm product categories including rice. The United States and other TPP members are putting strong pressure on Japan to further open up its agricultural market.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as well as farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also attended the meeting to show the country's firm stance, while U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy was included on the U.S. side.

Amari said Tokyo and Washington will continue negotiations to bridge their difference before the gathering in Singapore.

Froman also met with Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi later Sunday.

At the outset of the meeting, Froman said he is "confident" that the two countries will be able to resolve remaining issues if both sides show good faith.

Motegi told reporters following the meeting that Japan has done its utmost to make concessions on tariffs related to products that the United States regards as sensitive, urging Washington to show "flexibility" on contentious issues.