TPP首脳声明 交渉加速へ「聖域」絞り込みを

The Yomiuri Shimbun October 10, 2013
Govt should narrow down ‘sanctuary’ categories to accelerate TPP talks
TPP首脳声明 交渉加速へ「聖域」絞り込みを(10月9日付・読売社説)

Japan, the United States and other countries participating in Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations have put off their goal of quickly reaching a broad agreement. It will be difficult for them to reach a conclusion by the end of this year so they must reshape their strategy.

Leaders from the 12 countries involved in the TPP negotiations met in Indonesia and adopted a statement on Tuesday.

The leaders’ statement emphasized, “We have agreed that negotiators should now proceed to resolve all outstanding issues with the objective of completing this year a comprehensive and balanced, and regional agreement.”

The 12 countries initially expected to reach a broad agreement in Indonesia to conclude the TPP negotiations by the end of this year. However, the United States and emerging economies were unable to resolve differences over such areas as intellectual property rights and competition policy. The 12 countries also shelved talks over tariff elimination.

The fact that the 12 countries gave up reaching a broad agreement highlighted the difficulties of negotiations in which participating countries’ interests are intricately tangled. The abrupt absence of U.S. President Barack Obama, a facilitator in the TPP negotiations, also diminished the momentum of the talks.

The focus of attention from now on will be whether the participating countries can accelerate negotiations.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is right in saying, “We must make this [the TPP] the first step toward the creation of a great, free economic zone in the Asia-Pacific region.” We hope the TPP will help Japan harness the economic vitality of other Asian countries to boost its own growth.

Treating special items

An unavoidable issue is how to treat the five agricultural categories, such as rice, wheat and dairy products, which the Liberal Democratic Party demands should be regarded as “sanctuaries” that are exempt from eliminating tariffs.

Koya Nishikawa, chairman of the LDP’s TPP committee, said Sunday, “We have to consider whether [some products in the five categories] can be eliminated [from a list of items for which tariffs will be maintained].” His remark drew a backlash from some LDP members and agricultural organizations.

However, we believe it is quite natural and proper for Japan to closely examine the sanctuary categories.

Although the TPP adopts a principle of eliminating tariffs on all items, participating countries are discussing a liberalization rate, a percentage of trade items that will be tariff-free. It is highly likely Japan will be urged to achieve a liberalization rate of above 95 percent.

The five agricultural categories cover 586 products in tariff classifications, with the rice category alone comprising 58 items. If tariffs are maintained for all those items, the liberalization rate will be only 93.5 percent.

In preparation for an acceleration in the TPP negotiations, Japan must narrow down the sanctuary categories. Otherwise it will not be able to fully exert its negotiating power. The government must quickly have specific discussions over what items Japan should preferentially protect and on which items Japan should make concessions to best serve the overall national interest.

Rather than simply being defensive, it is also important for Japan to go on the front foot, for example, by capturing markets in emerging economies with its intellectual property.

With negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia getting started, the future goal is to create a wider Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

Japan, which started later than South Korea in forming economic partnerships with other countries, must make up for this loss by leading trade liberalization. Japan’s negotiating power to better utilize different free-trade frameworks will certainly be put to the test.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2013)
(2013年10月9日01時52分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-10-11 07:44 | 英字新聞

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