Jennifer Epstein reported on Saturday at Politico that, “President Barack Obama announced Saturday that a group of Pacific Rim nations reached the ‘broad outlines of an agreement’ on a key trade partnership and warned Iran that the U.S., Russia and China would work together to counter its attempts to develop its nuclear capability.
“As Obama kicked off a trip to Asia with a three-day stop in Hawaii to attend events associated with the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit— which he and first lady Michelle Obama are hosting — he made the case for greater U.S.-Asian cooperation. His administration is framing the trip as another way to push the president’s jobs message, as he urges Asian powers to open their markets to American products.”
The Politico article added that, “After [the] Trans-Pacific Partnership meeting, Obama said that though there are still ‘details to be worked out’ for the trade agreement, the framework is in place for a deal. The White House and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, meanwhile, released fact sheets [PDF download] and other information [PDF download] about the agreement, known as the TPP.
“The officials working on the TPP have set ‘an aggressive timetable’ to complete the deal by the end of 2012, deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs Mike Froman told reporters Saturday. The leaders in the partnership see it setting a standard for future agreements, perhaps first with Japan.”
The article went on to explain that, “Japan has asked to join the TPP talks, but U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk said Friday that ‘Japan must be prepared to meet the TPP’s high standards for liberalizing trade and to address specific issues of concern to the United States regarding barriers to agriculture, services and manufacturing trade, including non-tariff barriers.’
“Talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and the leaders of any other countries interested in joining the TPP could begin in parallel with the current negotiations, Froman said. ‘On one hand, we’re putting a lot of emphasis and energy around an ambitious timetable for the trade negotiators; on the other hand, beginning these consultations with new entrants, and to determine whether — what is necessary for them to meet the standards of TPP and address outstanding trade issues with the TPP countries.’”
Ms. Epstein pointed out that, “In a readout of the meeting, Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the president ‘welcomed’ Japan’s interest in joining the TPP and stressed that ‘all TPP countries need to be prepared to meet the agreement’s high standards, and he welcomed Prime Minister Noda’s statement that he would put all goods, as well as services, on the negotiating table for trade liberalization.’ Obama said he’s asked Kirk to begin the domestic process for Japan to join the group, which includes consultations with Congress and interest groups.”
However, Mitsouru Obe reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Japan’s prime minister hoped for praise at the weekend summit of Asian-Pacific leaders here for his bold pledge to join a U.S.-led free-trade pact—but his government instead got into a tangle with the Obama administration over just how far he had promised to go, and drew skepticism abroad and at home about the gesture.”
The Journal article indicated that, “The day after Yoshihiko Noda made his announcement in Tokyo, his aides were scrambling in Hawaii to limit the extent that Japan was willing to negotiate, criticizing the White House for overstating Mr. Noda’s promise.
“The unusual public disagreement between the two allies had been prompted by a White House news release that said Mr. Noda had told Mr. Obama during a bilateral session here that ‘he would put all goods, as well as services, on the negotiating table for trade liberalization.’”
Today’s Journal article pointed out that, “That triggered a release from the Japanese foreign ministry denying that Prime Minister Noda made such a remark in the summit meeting. Instead, Japanese officials have said Japan would enter the talks to learn the terms necessary but hasn’t promised to negotiate over every contentious issue.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post editorial board noted on Saturday that, “And so Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s decision to join talks on establishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a broad, U.S.-backed Asia-Pacific free trade agreement, represents not only a potentially historic change in Japan’s global role but also a promising development in U.S.-Japan relations.
“Yes, it is easy — and far from inaccurate — to characterize Mr. Noda’s decision as a tentative one, easily thwarted or undone. Negotiating the elimination of tariffs between the United States, Japan and other potential TPP countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, South Korea and Chile, will be complex — more complex with Japan involved. Though Japan’s exporters see TPP as an opportunity they cannot afford to miss, Mr. Noda faces resistance from the powerful lobby representing Japan’s protected, inefficient farm sector.
“This is why U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk emphasized that Japan must be prepared to meet ‘high standards’ of liberalization and to address U.S. concerns over non-tariff barriers. Domestic U.S. automakers are already sounding some of the same alarms about Japanese protectionism that they raised over the South Korea free trade agreement.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted today that, “Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s announcement Friday that Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks is a huge potential boost to global free trade. If successful, the deal will encompass countries accounting for 35% of the world economy, making it a template for future World Trade Organization agreements.
“The biggest winner will be Japan, if it can find the political will to follow through.”
The Journal stated that, “Imported rice [in Japan] faces a 778% tariff, which has shielded farmers from market pressure to consolidate their small plots. The average farm is less than two hectares worked by a 66-year-old farmer. The farm lobby opposes change, but young people aren’t taking over the farms.”
Also note that on Friday, the National Pork Producers Council stated in a news release that, “The National Pork Producers Council today welcomed Japan’s announcement that it would like to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) multi-lateral trade talks…Japan is the No. 1 market for the U.S. pork industry, which in 2010 exported $1.65 billion of pork to the Asian nation and which in the first nine months of this year has shipped $1.44 billion.”