Japan to lift tariffs on farm items under new trade deal

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Tokyo (dpa) – Japan will remove tariffs on about 30 per cent of the agricultural products that it earlier sought to protect, to comply with a recently concluded Pacific trade pact, the government said Tuesday.

During negotiations, Japan had sought to maintain import tariffs on 586 goods in five key farm product categories: rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products, and sugar.

The government said 174 of those will be lifted under the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), the deal reached among 12 Pacific-rim countries in early October after more than five years of talks.

Negotiations leading up to the agreement had been criticized for a lack of transparency. Most details of the deal are yet to be officially released, although the Wikileaks website has posted substantial portions of the text online.

Tokyo revealed Tuesday that Japan would maintain tariffs on 443 items, or 19 per cent, of its overall agricultural, forestry and fishery items.

The news could generate further protests from farmers, who are important constituents for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), especially after a parliament committee adopted resolutions in 2013 to make the five key farm product categories exempt from tariff elimination.

Before the 2012 election, Abe’s party said it “absolutely opposes the TPP.”

The government also said Tuesday that it will eventually remove tariffs on 95.1 per cent of farm, industrial and other imported products in value terms under the TPP.

The US-led initiative encompasses nearly 40 per cent of the world’s economy and covers about 800 million people.

The TPP signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.

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