JA group rallies for keeping farm tariffs at Japan-EU trade talks

TOKYO, June 28 – Japan’s most powerful farm group has gathered in Tokyo for an emergency rally, as Japanese and European chief negotiators are trying to clinch a free trade agreement, which will be the biggest trade deal for the EU.

The Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, known as Zenchu, made a renewed call June 27 to stress that any Japan-EU deal must maintain tariffs and border measures for sensitive agricultural products, such as pork and dairy.

At the rally, Zenchu Chairman Choe Okuno stressed, “I’m tired of seeing access to our agriculture market as a bargaining chip to sell more Japanese manufacturing goods to overseas. It must be stopped now!”

Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Morinaga noted European meat and dairy products are very competitive, more so than those of signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“If you give in more than the TPP, to the countries who are more competitive than TPP members, it will be extremely difficult to sustain our farming,” said Morinaga, indicating the tariff cut levels that Japan agreed in the TPP deal are the bottom line.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan were to arrive in Tokyo on June 30 to meet their counterparts. They are rushing to resolve key outstanding issues, namely the European automotive industry and Japanese dairy market access.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to meet with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on July 6 to forge a political agreement over their trade talks.

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