US calls on Japan to eliminate trade obstacles to farm products, autos

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 7:16am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 7:16am

The Office of the US Trade Representative urged Japan on Friday to remove market-access barriers to US exports such as agricultural products and automobiles.

In the 2017 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, the USTR criticised Japan over “the existence of substantial market access barriers” against US agricultural products and “a variety of non-tariff barriers” against American automobiles.

The report has increased the likelihood that the United States will push Japan to further open its market in these sectors -- and reduce Tokyo’s US$69 billion trade surplus with Washington -- during a high-level bilateral economic dialogue, the first round of which the two governments are planning to hold on April 18.

In the report, the USTR pointed to Japan’s “highly regulated and non-transparent” importation and distribution system for imported rice, saying such a system “limits the ability of US exporters to meaningfully access Japan’s consumers,” it said.

The report quoted industry research as saying that Japanese consumers would buy high-quality US rice if it were more readily available.

Although Japan is the fourth-largest market for US agricultural products, the United States is unhappy with market access to Japan, the report said, citing “high tariffs” on grains, sugar, citrus, wine, dairy and a variety of processed foods.

The USTR also urged Japan to fully open its market to US beef and beef products from “animals of all ages,” calling for removing the remaining part of the import ban the country imposed in 2003 following the detection of an animal with mad cow disease in the United States.

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Currently Japan allows imports of US beef and beef products from cattle less than 30 months of age slaughtered in the United States.

Aside from farm products, the report said Washington has expressed “strong concerns” about the lack of access to Tokyo’s automotive market for American automakers.

“A variety of non-tariff barriers impede access to Japan’s automotive market,” it said, citing issues relating to certification, “unique” standards and testing protocols, as well as “hindrances” to the development of distribution and service networks.