Japan Times | Saturday, April 21, 2007
Abe-Bush summit likely to touch on bilateral FTA
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President George W. Bush are likely to discuss making a bilateral free-trade agreement the subject of future negotiations when they meet next week, government sources said Friday.
The two governments are now in final negotiations to select topics to be discussed during the summit at Camp David, Md., on April 27, they said.
While Japanese and U.S. leaders have rarely spoken about a bilateral FTA, Abe and Bush will likely touch on it as there are growing calls from business lobbies on both sides to discuss a pact, the sources said.
Starting talks immediately is unlikely as there is currently strong opposition to an FTA from agricultural lobbies in Japan. However, the two governments hope the Abe-Bush meeting will pave the way for future negotiations, according to the sources.
Government officials increasingly believe Japan cannot stay away from growing global trends toward free-trade arrangements, especially after the United States and South Korea agreed on an FTA earlier this month.
However, the government probably will not start any full-scale FTA talks with the U.S. until after the House of Councilors election in July, worried that it could affect Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party from getting the farm vote, the sources said.
Given the huge scale of trade between Japan and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, which topped 22 trillion yen in 2005, a Japan-U.S. FTA, if concluded, would have a great impact on the global trading system.
Other economic issues likely to be taken up at the Camp David summit include Japanese import restrictions on U.S. beef and the Doha round of trade talks under the World Trade Organization.