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Agriculture sticking point in Japan, Australia free trade deal

All Headline News

Agriculture Sticking Point in Japan, Australia Free Trade Deal

March 15, 2007

Richard Bowden - All Headline News Staff Writer

Tokyo, Japan (AHN) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has warned Australia that agriculture remains a key sticking point ahead of next month’s negotiations between the two countries in Canberra next month.

Speaking following Monday’s historic signing of a security agreement with Australia, Mr Abe refused to put a time limit on the negotiations and said farming was part of his nation’s culture.

"In negotiation, we will have to give sufficient consideration to the mutual sensitivities. In particular for Japan, agriculture’s importance must be recognized," Mr Abe told a joint press conference after an hour-long meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Wednesday.

"But mutual benefits must be realized. It is an important negotiation for both countries, Japan and Australia - therefore some fixed negotiating timetable would not be (best) placed."

"I think thorough and sufficient consultation is needed."

Mr Abe said Japanese benefits from the negotiations must be considered and these included securing a stable source of resources, energy and food.

Mr Abe has come under increasing pressure from Japan’s farming sector not to sign a free trade deal involving agriculture with Australia. Japan’s farmers say cheap Australian imports of beef, rice and other agricultural products would drive them out of business.

With two way trade between the two countries worth over $US42.5 billion last year, Prime Minister Howard has said he is keen to add a free trade agreement to the signing of the security pact with the world’s second largest economy but said he was mindful of the sensitivities surrounding agriculture.

"But we will never know how real those sensitivities are until we have the the thorough-going examination that will come out of these negotiations," he said.

 source: AHN