Japan’s rejection of U.S. demands to end tariffs on politically sensitive farm produce means a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade arrangement is unlikely by the end of December.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office, said Japan cannot agree on tariff cuts on Dec. 10, the final day of a four-day TPP ministerial meeting here, unless the United States makes substantial concessions.
"Japan cannot give (the United States) even a millimeter," he said on the morning of Dec. 10. "It is difficult to tell how much the difference can be narrowed before the meeting closes, but we will continue our efforts until the last moment."
The TPP member countries have been trying to clinch an agreement in principle by the end of the year, and Japan-U.S. tariff talks have remained a key sticking point. Nishimura met with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in Singapore on Dec. 8 and 9.
Tokyo is trying to exclude five agricultural sectors, such as rice, from liberalization, while Washington is demanding across-the-board tariff elimination.
Nishimura said the 12 member countries have also yet to reach consensus on nontariff issues, such as intellectual property.
Nishimura is representing Japan at the meeting on behalf of Akira Amari, the minister in charge of TPP negotiations, who has been hospitalized with tongue cancer.
It will be difficult for senior officials from the member countries to gather for an additional round of negotiations this month. They will likely aim to conclude an agreement in principle early next year.