United States urges Japan to make good on trade promises

WASHINGTON, April 3 Thu Apr 3, 2014 10:41am EDT

WASHINGTON, April 3 (Reuters) - Japan has to live up to commitments to open its markets as part of talks to create a Pacific free trade zone, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Thursday.

Froman said despite a series of bilateral talks between the United States and Japan, the two biggest economies in the 12-nation trade agreement, there were still gaps on trade in farm goods and motor vehicles.

"It's time for Japan to step up to the plate," he told the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction on trade.

"At this juncture all eyes are on Japan to make sure they provide comprehensive market access."

The United States and Japan are bogged down in negotiating better access to Japan's markets for farmers and automakers and an end to U.S. tariffs on imported Japanese cars, a stalemate which is holding up wider talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is a centerpiece of U.S. President Barack Obama's push to expand the United States' presence in Asia, an aim he will pursue during a visit to the region, including Japan, later this month.

Japan's deputy chief trade negotiator Hiroshi Oe told reporters in Washington on Friday the United States also had to show some flexibility, a criticism Froman rejected.

Japanese officials have visited Washington for two sets of talks in the last week and Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler will visit Tokyo from April 7 for further negotiations ahead of Obama's visit. USTR officials have played down expectations of a breakthrough during the trip.

The United States wants Japan to open up its rice, beef and pork, dairy and sugar sectors and smooth the way for U.S. car dealerships, while Japan is keen for a timetable on U.S. promises to drop tariffs of 2.5 percent on imports of passenger cars and 25 percent on light trucks.

The United States had hoped to complete the TPP, which includes Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Malaysia and others, by the end of last year but many issues are still on the table. (Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)