TOKYO, April 8 Japan, fresh from clinching a
basic trade deal with Australia after years of negotiations,
said it hoped for a similar result with the United States and
for a regional pact, but cautioned that talks were "difficult."
Japan and the United States are pushing for a two-way trade
deal, a crucial part of a broad U.S.-led Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) before U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in
Japan later this month, with U.S. Trade Representative Michael
Froman arriving for talks with Economy Minister Akira Amari.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed a basic agreement on a deal on
Monday, overcoming sticking points on beef and automobiles that
had long stymied an agreement, and agreed to work towards
signing it as soon as possible.
The hurdles to a deal between Washington and Tokyo include
access to Japan's farm and car markets, and U.S. tariffs on
imported cars and trucks.
"We hope that the fact that we could reach an agreement on
the (Australian) deal will have a positive impact on the TPP and
other regional economic agreements," Japanese chief cabinet
secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Tuesday.
He said the United States and Japan were making every effort
on pending issues, adding: "The situation is very difficult, but
we hope that a positive role can be taken towards a broad
agreement on this."
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler began talks
with Japanese counterparts on Monday. Froman and Amari are
likely to meet on Wednesday, Japanese media said.
The deal with Australia, which will allow Japan to keep
reduced tariffs on politically sensitive agricultural products
such as beef, will give Japan ammunition against U.S. demands to
scrap tariffs in the TPP deal, experts said.
But others cautioned that an agreement before Obama's visit
was unlikely, noting that the United States - which has said it
wants a "high-quality TPP" - was unlikely to favour an arbitrary
deadline over results.
"Both sides appear more focused on apportioning blame than
on outlining possible compromises," wrote Tobias Harris, an
associate at political risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence.
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
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Richard Pullin)