(Adds U.S. Trade Representative comment)
WASHINGTON May 28 U.S. farm groups said on
Wednesday Japan should be suspended from Pacific trade talks if
the Asian nation insists on keeping tariffs on sensitive
Japanese Economics Minister Akira Amari told Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) trading partners at talks in Singapore last
week that Japan will not agree to abolish all tariffs on wheat,
rice, dairy, sugar, beef and pork.
U.S. and Japanese negotiators will hold two more days of
meetings in Washington on farm exports from Thursday and groups
representing dairy, wheat, rice and pork farmers said they could
still reach a deal.
"Failing that, the alternative is suspending negotiations
with Japan for now and concluding a truly comprehensive
agreement with those TPP partners that are willing to meet the
originally contemplated level of ambition," the National
Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates, USA Rice
Federation, the National Pork Producers Council and the
International Dairy Foods Association said in a statement.
"It is a big step but one that will be justified if Japan
continues to refuse to open its agricultural sector to
The joint statement is important because of the power the
farm lobby wields in Washington. If farm groups refuse to
support the TPP, which would create a 12-nation trade bloc
covering 40 percent of the world economy, support in Congress
could weaken further.
Beef producers from the United States, Canada, New Zealand
and Australia have already demanded that the TPP eliminate all
tariffs on beef, following reports that Japan might offer the
United States a tariff reduction to around 9 percent.
Cattle farmers also want a guarantee Japan will offer the
same terms it gives to the United States to other trading
Australia has separately agreed on a deal with Japan cutting
tariffs on frozen beef to 19.5 percent and on fresh beef to 23.5
percent. The United States has said the deal does not go far
But U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said after the
Singapore meeting the United States was pressing for tariff
elimination to the "maximum extent possible," suggesting some
room for flexibility. A USTR spokesman said the office was
confident it would secure a deal giving farmers new
Japan, which levies average agriculture tariffs of 16.6
percent, wants to protect its politically powerful farmers
although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen for reforms to open
Japan's economy and stimulate growth.
The Asian power's entry to the TPP last year was a game
changer for many participants given its high-income population
and relatively low import penetration, and excluding Japan would
make the TPP less attractive for some countries.
Froman has said any decision on whether Japan should leave
the TPP is up to Japan.
As well as cutting tariffs, the TPP seeks to set common
standards on issues like intellectual property and labor. More
than 140 members of Congress have signed a letter urging better
protection for workers' rights, lawmakers said on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)