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Lawmakers Raise Concern about Japan’s Interest in Joining TPP Talks

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lawmakers Raise Concern about Japan’s Interest in Joining TPP Talks

A group of 35 representatives and eight senators, including the entire Michigan delegation to Congress, sent a letter to President Obama on March 14 expressing serious concern about Japan’s interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The lawmakers are looking to engage the administration on this critical matter in order to address Japan’s “significant, long-standing, and persistent economic barriers,” which they believe “have hurt American workers and businesses for decades.”

The letter states that Japan ranks last among OECD members in terms of auto market import penetration at 5.9% in 2012 despite being the third-largest auto market in the world. The lawmakers contend that barriers in Japan have included currency manipulation; a discriminatory system of taxes; onerous and costly vehicle certification procedures for imported automobiles; a complex and changing set of safety, noise and pollution standards; an unwillingness by Japanese dealerships to carry foreign automobiles and insufficient enforcement of competition laws to address anti-competitive practices; zoning restrictions that make it difficult or impossible to establish new dealerships in important markets; government incentives to purchase Japanese-made kei cars; and exclusionary consumer preferences shaped by decades of government policies directed at promoting the national car companies.

These practices have allegedly contributed to the growing U.S. automotive trade deficit with Japan, which increased from $31 billion 20 years ago to $53.5 billion last year. The lawmakers argue that negotiations to open the Japanese market to foreign competition have repeatedly failed. As a result, they conclude that “confidence building measures and promises of a level playing field in the future do not address the basic concern how, under any circumstances, a TPP agreement could be sufficiently equipped to address the necessary transformation of the Japanese market.”    

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