(Adds quotes, details on safeguards; paragraphs 1-2, 5-7, 12)
WASHINGTON May 30 The United States and Japan
are discussing possible emergency protection for Japanese
farmers in case a Pacific trade deal leads to a surge in U.S.
imports, a senior Japanese official said on Friday.
Japan's Deputy Chief Negotiator Hiroshi Oe said both Japan
and the United States were navigating a difficult domestic
situation, with farmers in both countries keeping a close watch
on discussions, and it was not easy to narrow gaps.
"There was some progress but we are still far apart," he
told reporters after two days of meetings with U.S. officials on
Talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation grouping
that would stretch from Asia to Latin America, seek to remove
tariffs and other barriers to trade, but agricultural goods are
proving a particularly tricky issue.
Oe said measures allowing Japan to introduce safeguards if
imports from the United States jumped sharply were a "big issue"
at this week's talks.
Under World Trade Organization rules, a country may restrict
imports of a product temporarily, so-called safeguard actions,
if its domestic industry is threatened by a surge in imports.
"There are various elements in the safeguard and they are
linked to each other and it is a tough job to narrow gaps. There
is a long way to go to reach an agreement," Oe said, declining
to go into specifics of the discussion.
The United States wants Japan to open its rice, beef and
pork, dairy, and sugar markets. Japan has said it cannot
completely eliminate tariffs on all those products, prompting
calls from U.S. farm groups for the country to be dropped from
Oe brushed off the call and said U.S. negotiators had not
raised the prospect of excluding Japan at the Washington
"Japanese farm groups are also stakeholders ... we are not
negotiating with the stakeholders," he said.
Asked if Japan intended to offer the same terms to other TPP
countries as it agreed with the United States, Oe said it would
depend on the tariff line but in general, "we try to apply the
There had been reason to feel "desperate" at one point
during the latest talks, he said, but both sides kept talking
and talks ended more positively on Friday.
The next formal round of TPP negotiations is scheduled for
July and the countries hope to agree a deal by the end of the
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Additional reporting by Kaori
Kaneko in Tokyo; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)