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U.S. auto council opposes Japan joining in TPP talks

Daily Yomiuri, Japan

U.S. auto council opposes Japan joining in TPP talks

By Akihiro Okada / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

16 January 2012

WASHINGTON—A council representing the Big 3 U.S. automakers has declared that it opposes Japan joining negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement at this time, saying Japan’s auto market is not receptive to imports.

The American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC) also said it is no longer reasonable for the Japanese government to give preferential treatment to the "Kei" category of super-mini vehicles that are manufactured only domestically.

The AAPC expressed its views in an opinion paper submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative on Friday, the deadline for submitting opinions to the USTR to assist it in assessing Japan’s expression of interest in the TPP negotiations.

The U.S. presidential election is slated for this autumn and the Big 3 automakers, who are major employers in the nation, have a powerful voice in U.S. politics.

The automotive sector will be one of the focal issues in the preparatory negotiations between Japan and the United States, expected to start later this month. The negotiations are likely to be tough for Japan.

"Japan’s ’Kei’ super-mini car segment has consistently represented over 30 percent of the auto market, but no longer has a clear policy rational[e] to be provided preferential treatment," the AAPC wrote.

The council also wrote that Japan’s failure to fully harmonize its automotive technical requirements and certification procedures with international standards also constitutes a trade barrier for foreign automakers. These rules need to be more transparent, it said.

The council also said direct support from the Japanese government, provided since the late 1990s through systemic intervention in the currency markets to weaken the yen, has hindered exports of U.S. automobiles to Japan.

Overall, opinions from more than 100 organizations in such industries as farming and manufacturing were submitted, with many of those in agriculture supporting Japan’s participation. However, some people also called for all Japan’s agricultural products to be subject to the free trade scheme.