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Japan, U.S. resume talks on beef, pork in Pacific free-trade pact


Japan and the United States resumed talks Thursday aimed at narrowing differences over Japan's tariffs on beef, pork and other farm produce in a U.S.-led Pacific free trade initiative.

Hiroshi Oe, deputy chief Japanese negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. trade representative, met in Washington for the first follow-up session after last week's ministerial meeting in Singapore of the 12 countries negotiating the pact.

Japan has proposed lowering tariffs on pork and beef while asking the United States to allow Japan to introduce safeguard measures if imports from the United States of the products drastically increase, people familiar with the negotiations said earlier.

Oe arrived in the U.S. capital a day after U.S. agricultural groups such as the National Pork Producers Council stepped up criticism of Japan and urged the U.S. government to seek to oust Japan from the TPP negotiations unless it reviews the exceptional tariffs.

"We'll take up not only the safeguard issue but all other remaining issues. We'll try to thrash out many of the remaining details," Oe told reporters upon arrival at an airport in a Washington suburb on Thursday.

The Office of U.S. Trade Representative said the latest round of bilateral talks is for discussions about "market access issues focusing on agriculture."

Along with beef and pork, Japan has said it will keep tariffs on four other sensitive agricultural product categories -- rice, wheat, dairy products and sugar.

Japan and the United States also have differences over a U.S. call for Tokyo to open its automotive market wider by lifting nontariff barriers such as safety regulations.

Japan, the United States and 10 other countries -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- plan to hold a chief negotiators' meeting in July.