Japan has agreed to expand the abolishment of tariffs to up to 89 percent of trade items with some member states of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.
However, that is still far below the trade liberalization rate of around 95 percent it is believed that the 12 TPP member nations will be required to pledge before a pact is concluded by year-end.
The percentage of items whose tariffs a country pledges to eliminate is known as the trade liberalization rate, and Japan, which joined the TPP talks in July, presented a proposal to raise its rate to between 75 and 85 percent to nine nations by mid-September, according to sources involved in the TPP negotiations.
But such parties have demanded Japan abolish the import taxes on more items. In response Tokyo showed an expanded second tariff elimination plan to Singapore, New Zealand and other countries starting in late September, the sources said.
Tariff negotiations in TPP talks are conducted on a bilateral level. Negotiators from the two nations decide on the items for which tariffs will be eliminated as well as the extent a nation's trade liberalization rate is increased. For those reasons, the trade liberalization rate for a nation may vary depending on the partner country.
Whereas Japan’s highest trade liberalization rate to date was 88.4 percent, which was achieved in an economic partnership agreement with the Philippines, Tokyo has proposed to some TPP members that it will abolish tariffs on around 89 percent of items, according to the sources.
Although the Japanese government has been working to retain import taxes on 586 food items in the five "sacred" categories of rice, barley and wheat, sugar crops, dairy products, and beef and pork, if Japan maintains tariffs on all the 586 articles, its trade liberalization rate can rise at most to 93.5 percent.
The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are considering whether it will eliminate tariffs on some 220 items in the five categories, including such items as beef tongue, for which Japan has been heavily dependent on imports. If import taxes are eliminated on the 220 items, Japan's liberalization rate will rise 2.4 points, to nearly 96 percent.
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