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Japan, Australia Restart FTA Talks

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

26 December 2011

The 13th round of negotiations on the long-discussed Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has been held in Canberra, amidst encouraging signs concerning its possible completion.

In November 2010, the two countries had agreed to re-energize the EPA negotiations that had begun in April 2007, and the 12th round of negotiations had taken place in January this year.

It has been said that a free trade agreement between Australia and Japan would be of some importance, given that Japan is Australia’s second-largest trading partner and export market, with merchandise trade in 2009-10 worth some USD55bn. Japan is also interested in continuing discussions with Australia, given the latter’s involvement in current talks on extending the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Japan is looking to join at some stage.

However, it has also been noted that, both with regard to the EPA and TPP, Japan would have to overcome the fears of Japan’s highly-protected agricultural sector with regard to any reduction to tariffs on sensitive products, such as beef, rice and wheat.

It was recorded that the latest round of EPA discussions, with the participation of Shinichi Nishimiya, the Japanese Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Bruce Gosper, Australia’s Deputy Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, included useful talks on the market access of trade in goods, where both sides aired their concerns in regard to both primary and industrial products.

In addition, both sides also had discussions on the remaining issues with respect to rules of origin and improvements to the business environment.

The next 14th round of negotiations will be held in Tokyo in February 2012.

TAGS: tax | tariffs | trade treaty | Australia | food | agreements | trade | Japan

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