Here’s a statement from the Japanese foreign ministry about the stalled negotiations of a free trade agreement with Mexico: bq. “Agriculture is the sticking point. If the two sides can agree on this, then it’s relatively easy for both Japan and Mexico to reach a substantial final agreement,” saida spokesman for Japan’s foreign ministry. (“Financial Times”:http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1073281202823&p=1012571727102) The Japanese Prime Minister, Koizumi, declined to pursue a negotiation of a free trade agreement with Austrlalia early in 2003—although it had been proposed by his own Foreign Ministry and endorsed by business groups on both sides—because he accepted the advice of the Japanese industry Ministry (MITI) that an agreement with Mexico (a NAFTA partner) was a priority for Japan. He also feared that Japan would not be able to agree to open its food markets to import competition from Australia. bq. Failure to reach agreement with Mexico after more than a year of talks has been a blow to Japan’s hopes of securing its first economic partnership agreement that includes agriculture. Japan’s only EPA is with Singapore, where agriculture is not a trade issue. (FT) Here’s a fearless prediction. One day, sooner or later, the Japanese will abandon their unswerving policy of protecting Japanese food producers and allow the inevitable adjustment to take place. Probably it will be a local event that wakes them up: the significantly greater success of a more open Chinese economy. But by then …
Peter Gallagher is a leading Australian consultant on trade and public policy.[bio].
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