The latest round of bilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and his Japanese counterpart Akira Amari was held Sept. 23-24 in Washington, D.C. At the conclusion of the meeting, both sides expressed disappointment in their failure to capitalize on this opportunity to break the stalemate over Japan’s “sensitive” agricultural products and automobile trade. No further ministerial-level meetings have been scheduled.
USTR issued a brief readout on the meeting, stating that the two sides were “unable to make further progress on the key outstanding issues.” This was also the view expressed by Amari in various news reports.
The outcome of this week’s meeting was especially disappointing in that it came on the heels of encouraging remarks delivered earlier in the week by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Abe suggested that both the U.S. and Japan must show greater flexibility on agricultural market access issues in order to complete TPP negotiations. His comments regarding market-based agricultural reform in Japan included the following:
“I consider it is indispensable for the future of Japanese agriculture to promote the domestic and international reforms in an integrated way. To be honest with you, it is indeed an enormous task to suppress the resistance from the people who have been protected by vested interest. However, there is no future for them if they are not exposed to competition.”
Abe’s full remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations are available online.