TPA Adds Momentum to U.S.-Japan Negotiations
Senior U.S. and Japanese officials, emboldened by the recent introduction of trade promotion authority legislation in the U.S. Congress and a week of working-level talks, met in Tokyo over the weekend for further discussions on a bilateral deal seen as a necessary precursor to the broader Trans-Pacific Partnership. Although both Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman said their talks made progress, Amari said the U.S. was still asking for too much of an increase in rice imports and there was no word on whether the U.S. would agree to a proposal to accelerate the timetable for lowering its 2.5 percent import tariffs on Japanese autos.
The two sides are seeking to clear the way for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama to announce an agreement when Abe visits Washington April 28. Once that agreement is finalized, observers expect that TPP negotiations could be wrapped up within a matter of months. Froman was optimistic that goal can be reached, noting that while “there are open issues across the agreement … everyone is in a closing mode.” An Inside US Trade article noted that a TPP ministerial is being planned along the sidelines of a May 23-24 meeting of trade ministers from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum member countries and that “many observers see TPP parties as aiming to strike a deal then.”