Japan out of step on free trade agreements: Groser

Article – Businesswire

Oct. 7 (BusinessDesk) – Japan risks being sidelined by other economies in the region if it continues to hold out against free trade agreements because of its reluctance to liberalise trade in agricultural products, Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser …

Japan out of step on free trade agreements: Groser

By Pattrick Smellie

Oct. 7 (BusinessDesk) – Japan risks being sidelined by other economies in the region if it continues to hold out against free trade agreements because of its reluctance to liberalise trade in agricultural products, Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser warned today.

Speaking in Tauranga at the 37th meeting of the Japan New Zealand Business Council, Groser said it was “regrettable, given the depth of our economic ties, that Japan is the only major country in East Asia with which we do not have an FTA completed or under negotiation.”

Japan displayed “a continuing gap” between its rhetoric on trade liberalisation and “the reluctance of some parts of the Japanese government to address issues related to agriculture and liberalisation of agricultural markets”.

“My understanding is that this is the reason why Japan has found itself unable to engage in regional economic initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership now underway, which involves the US, New Zealand and others.

“That also seems to be the reason behind the Japanese government’s reluctance to date to start FTA negotiations with New Zealand.

“No-one expects Japan to open its sensitive sectors immediately: it will need to be a staged process,” said Groser. “But without that process getting underway, Japan risks being left behind, and it will be harder for New Zealanders to see Japan as the energetic partner that we want it to be.”

However, if Japan wished to start the process, there was an “interesting case” for negotiating first with New Zealand, because of the complementary nature of the two countries’ agricultural production and the absence of domestic economy threats posed by New Zealand producers.

“We also present a match in terms of key Japanese interests,” said Groser. “New Zealand’s ability to supply food reliably, and to meet high Japanese standards for food products, makes us an ideal partner for Japan’s food security in a world where supply is increasingly an issue.

“To achieve progress with Japan, we need to put this relationship on the same trajectory as other of our bilateral trading relationships.

(BusinessDesk)

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