* Japan's Abe, Australia's Abbott to seal basic trade deal
* US Trade Representative Froman heading to Tokyo for talks
* Bilateral negotiations meant to spur stalled Pacific
(Adds details on US-Japan talks, TPP, context)
By William Mallard
TOKYO, April 7 Japan and Australia will reach a
trade deal on Monday, Japanese media said, spurring Tokyo's
parallel talks with the United States as Pacific nations
struggle for a broader agreement.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Japanese
counterpart Shinzo Abe on Monday, will announce the basic
bilateral agreement, featuring cuts to Tokyo's tariffs on
imported beef and Canberra ending its duty on cars, the Nikkei,
Asahi and Yomiuri newspapers reported.
While working on the economic partnership agreement with
Australia, Japan is also in negotiations with the United States
ahead of a visit late this month by President Barack Obama.
The two sets of bilateral talks are meant to help spur an
overdue agreement on a broader Trans-Pacific Partnership trade
Abbott had said on Sunday that he hoped for a quick
conclusion to thorny free trade negotiations with Japan but
suggested time might be needed to ensure conclusion of a
If Tokyo and Canberra agree, "Australia gets preferential
treatment over the U.S., and America will be under pressure to
strike a TPP deal short-term that puts it on a level playing
field with Australia," said Aurelia George Mulgan, a professor
of Japanese politics at the University of New South Wales.
Abbott, who has set a bilateral deal as a top priority, told
the Asahi that Australia was prepared to make big concessions on
cars and that cuts in Japan's beef tariffs would benefit Japan's
He said he hoped for an agreement in principle on Monday
that could be formally signed when Abe visits Australia in July,
the newspaper said.
Japan will agree to cut its tariffs on Australian beef below
30 percent from the current 38.5 percent and Australia will
scrap its 5 percent duty on small and midsize Japanese cars, the
reports said, citing unnamed sources.
Canberra has a lower hurdle on tariffs for Japanese cars
after the Australian units of the country's three remaining
carmakers - Toyota Motor Corp, General Motors Corp
and Ford Motor Co - also decided to quit domestic
production by 2017 due to high costs and a strong currency.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will travel to
Japan on Monday, his office said on Saturday, in a bid to break
a bilateral stalemate bogging down the 12-nation TPP talks.
Washington and Tokyo are each urging the other to be more
flexible on the sticking points of access to Japan's farm and
car markets and U.S. tariffs on imported cars and trucks.
The TPP, which Japan joined last year, is a centerpiece of
Obama's push to expand the U.S. presence in Asia. The talks have
entered their fifth year. The Japanese and U.S. economies
dominate the grouping, which encompasses one-third of global
imports and exports.
Froman told a congressional panel last week that "it's time
for Japan to step up to the plate," while Japan's deputy chief
trade negotiator Hiroshi Oe said recently that "in order to make
a breakthrough, the United States has to show flexibility."
The United States wants Japan to open its rice, beef and
pork, dairy and sugar sectors - areas Abe has vowed to defend.
Japan wants a timetable on U.S. promises to drop tariffs of 2.5
percent on imports of passenger cars and 25 percent on light
Advocates say the TPP could accelerate global economic
growth, boost U.S. exports and level the playing field between
emerging and rich nations in one of the world's biggest trade
The TPP talks, including Canada, Mexico, New Zealand,
Malaysia and others, missed a deadline for an agreement by the
end of last year.
(Additional reporting by Krista Hughes and David Brunnstrom in
Washington and Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Editing by Bernard Orr)