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Japan dodges calls for tariff cuts
Japan has said it is hoping to form a united front with the European Union (EU) over World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, dodging calls for cuts to its own tariffs on agriculture.

During the two-day summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Japan joined Asia-Pacific economies to press the EU to show flexibility on cutting farm subsidies.

"But APEC is APEC. WTO is WTO," a Japanese government official, who declined to be named.

"Of course, we will follow what APEC leaders promised over the issue," the official said. "But we are still willing to join hands with the EU on a necessary basis during the WTO meeting in Hong Kong next month."

APEC leaders urged the EU to offer bigger reductions in tariffs on farm products and for individual European countries to reduce or cut farm export subsidies, saying EU barriers are a major obstacle to the WTO negotiations.

However Japan, which is known for offering strong support for the farming sector, is not ready to make any immediate concessions itself, another Japanese official said.

"We will give way if we have to do so, but we should protect what we have to protect," the official said.

"Anyway, we are not at the stage to make any new offer over the tariff issue," the official said.

"We know some APEC members such as Australia are calling for Japan to make a compromise," he said.

"But the consensus among the APEC leaders during the meeting was that the EU's export subsidies are a much more urgent issue to handle than our tariff issue."

On Friday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard told business leaders that not only the EU but Japan and other nations should offer greater cuts in farm subsidies or reduce tariffs to help unblock global trade talks.

Japan imposes import tariffs of above 75 percent on a range of goods and its tariff on rice imports currently stands at 778 percent.

Japan, whose largest issue of concern is the further liberalization of the rice market, is among the Group of 10 countries seeking to protect their farmers from far-reaching liberalization in the WTO talks.

The G-10 refers to Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Norway, among others.

The WTO is meeting in Hong Kong from December 13-18 is meant to agree the outlines of an international accord to cap the Doha Round of negotiations launched in 2001 in the Qatari capital. — AFP Japan has said it is hoping to form a united front with the European Union (EU) over World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, dodging calls for cuts to its own tariffs on agriculture.
MGR Archive 20.11.2005
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