Australia and Japan began FTA negotiations in April 2007 after clearing a joint feasibility study (and signing a joint plan for military cooperation). As of April 2012, 15 rounds of talks had been held.
The deal is supposed to be a comprehensive one, but there are serious differences over agriculture, automobiles and energy. Japan has been trying to exclude sensitive farm products — including beef, sugar, dairy, wheat and barley — from the scope of the deal to protect its farmers. Australia, however, wants the preferential market access for farm products beyond what was agreed at WTO. Meanwhile, Japanese farmers and consumers, with full support from groups in Australia, have been mobilising to ensure that any Japan-Australia FTA provides safeguards against GM foods, particularly canola and beef. In effect, since 2007 Australia states have been reneging on their previous GM-free policies and Japanese consumers rely on few sources for GM-free foods like canola oil. Many analysts have viewed the conclusion of this deal as a prerequisite for Japan to enter into Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
last update: May 2012
Photo: spDuchamp/CC BY 2.0
Japanese Trade Minister Akira Amari wants an energy clause included in the free-trade agreement being worked out with Australia to ensure a stable supply of energy to Japan
Japan and Australia will begin two days of talks on a possible free trade agreement April 23 in Canberra, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said.
The Japanese cabinet minister expected to play a critical role in free trade negotiations with Australia is in trouble for the second time in four months over shady political financing.
Australian farmers have pleaded with the federal government not to forget them when it meets with Japan for negotiations on a free trade agreement next year.
Despite growing concern in Japan over the impact a free trade agreement could have on local farmers, Prime Minister John Howard and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe have agreed to begin formal negotiations in the new year. Mr Howard says agriculture will be included.
Cabinet ministers for international trade matters have approved a joint report submitted by Japanese and Australian experts recommending initiating talks on a bilateral free trade agreement, government officials said.
The study group concluded that a comprehensive and WTO-consistent EPA/FTA would bring about considerable benefits to both countries.
Australia’s proposed Free Trade Agreement with Japan is facing stiff opposition from Japanese farmers. The deal, if finalised, would be Australia’s largest bilateral trade agreement, and could open the traditionally closed Japanese market to Australian agricultural products. But Japanese farmers say the deal puts their futures at risk.
Free access for all Australian farm products to the Japanese market will be on the table when free trade agreement negotiations start, but some won’t be there at the finish.
Rio Tinto Australia managing director Charlie Lenegan told an Australia-Japan business conference in Sydney today the foundation for such a treaty had been laid over the past 50 years, since the signing of a Commerce Agreement between the pair in 1957.