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Senators want tough stance on Japan in trade pact

Senators want tough stance on Japan in trade pact

Japan must open up its auto market and be granted no special exemptions if it is to be admitted into a regional trade pact championed by the Obama administration, U.S. senators said Tuesday.
Lawmakers pressed a top U.S. negotiator on how long-standing trade disagreements with the world's third largest economy _ also a key ally of Washington _ would be tackled following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decision to seek Japan's entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
The pact is widely viewed as part of broader U.S. efforts to intensify its engagement with Asia. With Japan's entry, the participating nations would account for about 40 percent of global GDP.
But resolving sensitive issues, including Japan's heavily subsidized agriculture sector, could prove tricky. Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis told the Senate Finance Committee hearing that Japan would have to put "all goods on the table" for negotiation.
The pact is being negotiated by 11 nations: U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. All would have to sign off on Japan's entry into the pact that's intended would reduce duties on a wide range of goods and services and ease regulatory and other non-tariff barriers to trade. The administration hopes to complete talks on the pact by October.
Talking tough, Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow, co-chair of a Senate caucus on manufacturing, complained Japan exports 120 automobiles to the U.S. for every American vehicle sold to Japan.
She also accused Japan of currency manipulation, saying that an undervalued yen is giving it an unfair advantage.
"It's impossible for us to get into their markets," she said, charging that protectionism of Japan's auto sales dates back 80 years. "As we look at Japan, why in the world would we believe at this point that this would be any different?"
Abe has promised to guard Japan's national interest, but says it has no choice but to opt for the growth that comes with freer trade or lose out to other countries which are capitalizing on market opening. He took office in December vowing to revive Japan's long-sluggish economy.
Democrat Sen. Max Baucus said Japan's entry would enhance the "remarkable opportunity" presented by TPP to open up a huge market for U.S. exports, and he noted progress in Japan beginning to accept U.S. beef imports.
But Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch took issue with a statement issued by President Barack Obama after a White House meeting with Abe last month that noted sensitivities for Japan on certain agricultural products and for some manufactured products for the U.S. Japan's average tariff on imported rice is nearly 800 percent, while rates for butter and sugar are over 300 percent.
"If this statement reflects the standards for Japan in the TPP it threatens to dilute the benefits of entire agreement as other countries seek to carve out as many sensitivities as they can," he said.
Marantis said the U.S. is currently working with Japan to ensure that should it join TPP it will be capable of meeting its high standards. He said they were making progress, but concerns remain over the auto and insurance sectors, and Japan's use of non-tariffs measures.


Updated : 2021-04-21 23:27 GMT+08:00