Japan and Australia began Monday in Canberra five-day talks on sealing a bilateral free trade agreement, with differences remaining over liberalising trade in agricultural products.
In the 15th round of the bilateral FTA negotiations launched in April 2007, Tokyo will likely maintain its cautious stance toward opening up the Japanese market to such farm items as beef, wheat, dairy products and sugar.
Australia, a major agricultural exporter, has been calling on Japan to eliminate tariffs on those items, but Japan is eager to exempt politically sensitive farm products from tariff elimination to protect Japanese farmers.
Australia, which is one of the nine economies already involved in negotiations to conclude a US-led multilateral free trade pact, has refrained from declaring support for Japan’s participation in talks on the regional framework.
Some observers say Canberra has doubts about Tokyo’s intention to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks and liberalise its farm market.
Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda has given up on declaring Japan’s entry into TPP negotiations before his planned visit to the United States from April 29.
With some Japanese farmers and politicians strongly opposed to Tokyo’s participation in the TPP talks, FTA negotiations between Japan and Australia are not expected to make headway, observers said.
The negotiations led by Japanese deputy Foreign minister Shinichi Nishimiya and Bruce Gosper, deputy secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, will also cover the liberalisation of investment and rule of origin, according to the Japanese government.