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Japan tries to exclude agriculture in free trade talks

FarmOnline | 25/07/2008

Japan tries to exclude agriculture in free trade talks

Japan has moved to exclude key agricultural products from the next round of free-trade negotiations with Australia, which due to be held in Tokyo next week.

The sixth round of the FTA negotiations will feature an exchange of market access requests on services and investments from both nations.

But Trade Minister Simon Crean said today that Japan has tried to exclude some key agricultural products.

"In negotiations to date, Japan has sought the exclusion of a range of agricultural items of interest to Australia," Mr Crean said.

"The Australian negotiating team will therefore continue to focus on Australia’s agricultural market access requests at the sixth round.

"They will ensure that key areas of interest, including Australian beef, dairy, wheat, barley and sugar exports are discussed with Japan."

Mr Crean expects Australian negotiators to raise other agricultural exports at subsequent meetings.

The signals from Japan are ominous given the strong desire for trade reform being displayed at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Geneva this week.

"While Australia’s top priority is achieving multilateral trade liberalisation, we pursue comprehensive FTAs that support multilateral trade reform, that are WTO-plus and that set liberalising benchmarks which can serve as models for other countries," Mr Crean said.

"An FTA with Japan offers potential to create opportunities for Australia’s service providers and to expand trade in services between our two countries.

"Australia is seeking a comprehensive FTA that will help secure and improve Australia’s access to its largest export market, and the second-largest economy in the world."

 source: FarmOnline