Japan farm minister reaffirms not go beyond TPP limit on rice

TOKYO, Dec. 6 ― Japan’s Agriculture Minister Takamori Yoshikawa reaffirmed that his government will not go beyond the already historic concessions Tokyo had offered to Washington in the Trade-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at upcoming bilateral talks with the U.S.

Testifying before the lower house of agriculture committee on Dec. 5, Yoshikawa told fellow parliamentarians: “Go beyond the TPP concessions is just unimaginable.”

Japan and the U.S. is expected to kick off negotiations for a trade agreement on goods (TAG) as early as January 2019, and the U.S. President Donald Trump recently expressed a willingness to get “a substantially better TPP” deal.

The U.S. rice industry, the largest rice exporter to Japan in terms of value, is also echoing the president’s call.

In the original TPP, Japan offered 70,000 tons of tariff-free import quota for U.S. rice. But the U.S. rice industry is reportedly demanding 150,000 tons of quota in a new deal with Tokyo, which is more than double the TPP offer.

Yoshikawa reiterated that Tokyo would not offer greater market access of rice than it had given in other free trade deals, including the TPP.

The irony is, however, the Japanese government has recently subsidized super premium quality rice and rice for animal feed use, resulting in an insufficient supply of reasonably priced rice for the Japanese food service industry.

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