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Auto talks eyed with U.S. to ease TPP bid

Japan Times

Auto talks eyed with U.S. to ease TPP bid

5 February 2012

Kyodo/WASHINGTON — Japan is set to propose a working-level forum for auto trade issues with the United States to speed up its efforts to join negotiations on a trans-Pacific trade framework, sources said Saturday.

Tokyo will make the overture at preliminary talks related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a free-trade initiative led by Washington, on Tuesday, the sources said.

Japan and the U.S. don’t have a specific forum for auto trade issues yet, and the United States is expected to view the proposal favorably.

Propelling the move is Japan’s desire to join TPP talks as soon as possible by separating auto issues from the preliminary talks with the U.S., they said.

The U.S. auto industry is opposed to Japan’s entry into the TPP negotiations, arguing that Japanese regulations have barred U.S. carmakers from penetrating into its market and that the bilateral trade imbalance will widen if Japan joins the tariff-cutting framework.

Although it dismisses such regulations as nonexistent, Tokyo is worried about the increasing pressure the politically powerful U.S. auto industry is putting on Congress to exclude Japan from the TPP.

The Japanese government declared its intention in November to join the TPP negotiations, but Tokyo must receive approval from the nine countries currently involved in the talks.

So far, Brunei, Chile, Peru and Vietnam have expressed support for Japan to formally take part, Japanese officials said.