WASHINGTON, June 19 Japan should be cut out of
Pacific trade talks if it will not open its markets to more farm
imports, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Thursday,
urging the Obama administration to hold firm.
Japan has been reluctant to open up agricultural markets
such as pork, beef, rice and dairy, and U.S. trade negotiators
seem willing to allow the country to keep some protection for
sensitive products, upsetting U.S. farmers.
Key, who is visiting Washington, said it was essential to
keep a high standard for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),
which would connect a dozen economies by cutting trade barriers
and harmonizing standards in a deal covering two-fifths of the
world economy and a third of global trade.
All countries had sensitivities, but all signed up to an
ambitious, comprehensive deal - including Japan.
"If they can't meet those terms and the other 11 partners
can, then we should get on and do a deal with those 11
partners," Key said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event, adding
that his preference was to keep Japan in.
Asked to respond, a Japanese government official said on
Friday, "We do not comment on every statement made by TPP
partners because we do not negotiate through the press."
But Japan will continue to negotiate in good faith with all
the partners in the trade talks, including New Zealand, added
the official, who declined to be identified because of the
sensitivity of the negotiations.
Rather than accept a deal that does not eliminate tariffs on
key products, some U.S. farm groups have also asked for Japan to
be excluded from the talks, now in their fifth year.
Trading partners are concerned that too-generous concessions
to Japan could have a domino effect and cause the whole
agreement to collapse.
The countries participating in the talks have made
significant progress over the last few months, a spokeswoman for
Singapore's trade and industry ministry said on Friday.
"The parties remain committed to concluding an ambitious,
comprehensive and high-standard agreement," she added.
Australian officials who declined to be identified because
of the sensitivity of the talks also said they remained
confident a deal would be reached.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made TPP a key part
of his strategy to create sustainable growth in the world's
third biggest economy. A package of economic measures to be
unveiled next week pledges a sustained commitment to conclude
the ambitious 12-nation deal.
Japan and the United States together account for about 80
percent of the combined GDP of the 12 members.
Without access to new export markets, smaller TPP countries
will have little incentive to accept common standards on issues
such as copyright, patents and worker protection.
"If ambition comes down in the agricultural sector, then
ambition will be lowered in every other sector, and that means
intellectual property, that means (state-owned enterprises),
that means everything else because there is always going to be a
degree of contentiousness about TPP in every country," Key said.
"If I was part of the dairy sector in the United States, or
if I was part of the broader agricultural sector in the United
States, I would be at the president's door telling him: 'Sign up
to a comprehensive deal with total elimination of tariffs.'"
For their part, U.S. businesses may get little value from
the TPP if it does not provide more protection for intellectual
property rights and overseas investments.
"The U.S. Chamber welcomed Japan to the TPP negotiating
table on the strength of its pledge to put everything on the
table - with no exclusions," said Myron Brilliant, the U.S.
Chamber's executive vice president.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Additional reporting by Rachel
Armstrong in SINGAPORE, Lincoln Feast in SYDNEY and Linda Sieg
in TOKYO; Editing by Jonathan Oatis,; Steve Orlofsky and