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
Photo: spDuchamp/CC BY 2.0
The certain win for the Democratic Party of Japan in Sunday’s election threatens to wreck Australia’s hopes for a comprehensive FTA with its second-largest trading partner. The DPJ has promised no bilateral trade agreements will disadvantage Japanese farmers, while the Rudd government insists only an FTA tackling farm trade barriers is acceptable to Australia.
Japanese demand for Australian commodities may be waning, but the Rudd Government insists there is still the political will for Tokyo and Canberra to find common ground on free trade.
Advancing a bold free-trade agreement between Australia and Japan would be a "springboard" for influencing economic reform in the region.
Japan has moved to exclude key agricultural products from the next round of free-trade negotiations with Australia, due to be held in Tokyo next week.
Australia’s free trade talks with Japan are moving forward on Japanese lines. Four days of talks in Canberra have ended with promising offers on services and investment, and progress in all areas - except agriculture.
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has warned the Japanese they cannot have a free trade agreement under the conditions being sought by their negotiators.
The Japanese Government has refused to offer Australia any serious concessions on agricultural import tariffs, the major barrier to a free trade agreement between the two countries.
Australia is expected to oppose the exemption of five items from the envisaged FTA with Japan: wheat, rice, beef, dairy and sugar.
Japan has again raised concerns about energy security and the viability of its agriculture industry in free trade talks with Australia.
The Japanese Liberal Democratic Party has suffered huge election losses in rural areas, where the proposed free trade deal with Australia is highly unpopular.