TOKYO (AP) – The Japanese and U.S. negotiators faced difficulties in reaching a preliminary agreement on free trade that could be the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s visit to Tokyo this week.
Economy Minister Akira Amari told reporters on Tuesday that the two sides remain “important differences” on trade in agricultural products, a day before Obama arrives.
“As the pace of progress would naturally close the gap,” Amari said. Both sides will continue to negotiate before the summit meeting to be held on Thursday, Obama with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he added.
An agreement between Japan and the United States has a crucial importance in advancing a broader pact between the 12 nations that form the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Each nation must reach agreement with the other members to finalize the deal.
The ATP establishes trade rules and is considered a precursor to a future free trade agreement for the entire Pacific Rim.
The main obstacles between Japan and the United States revolve around the removal of tariff on agricultural products such as rice, beef, dairy and sugar sectors that Japan has long been protected from foreign competition rates, said the Japanese media.
Cars are another obstacle. Bouquet Japanese industry last year exported 4,731 vehicles per day to the U.S., while Japan imported less than 62 per day. The related trade accounts for nearly three quarters of the 6.1 trillion yen (59,500 million) trade deficit in the fiscal year ended March 31 car, according to Japanese statistics.
According to anonymous sources, Kyodo News agency said the United States asked Japan to establish a minimum level in importing American cars. Washington wants Tokyo decrease tariffs on imported pickup trucks.