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
The Japanese Liberal Democratic Party has suffered huge election losses in rural areas, where the proposed free trade deal with Australia is highly unpopular.
Ono Kazuoki, veteran of Japanese and Asian farmer movements, comments on the projected Australia-Japan FTA.
Japan may try to have a specific clause to safeguard its imports of coal and iron ore inserted into any free trade deal with Australia.
Japan’s trade supremo Akira Amari has ruled out opening up the country’s rice market in a free trade agreement with Australia, saying Japan’s aim is to secure a deal that covers "90 per cent" of trade between the two countries.
More than 1,000 Japanese farmers have held a protest rally in the centre of Tokyo over a proposed free trade agreement with Australia.
Japanese farmers have stepped up their campaign against a proposed free trade deal with Australia.
Japan and Australia agreed Thursday to pay close attention to Tokyo’s politically sensitive agricultural issues when they advance talks for a bilateral free-trade agreement, the next round of which is slated for late July.
A Joint Statement from Australian and Japanese people
Japan and Australia have agreed to a fast-paced timetable of negotiations on a free trade pact after two days of initial talks.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has come under increasing pressure from Japan’s farming sector not to sign a free trade deal involving agriculture with Australia.