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Japanese want rice out of $66b free trade talks
Japan will push to have the politically charged crop of rice excluded from a free trade deal with Australia when talks on the proposed $66 billion accord begin next week.

The West Australian can reveal that Japanese officials hope to mimic the recently concluded South Korea-US free trade deal that deliberately excluded rice because of the crop's political sensitivity.

Rice is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the Australia-Japan deal, which a study estimated would boost the Australian economy by $39 billion over 20 years and help Japan by $27 billion.

Effective tariffs on the Japanese rice market stand at close to 700 per cent, making it almost impossible for other countries to sell big amounts of the grain in Japan.

Australian trade officials said other free trade deals, such as that with the US, would prove a starting point for the talks that will start with two days of negotiations today and tomorrow.

"All products and issues will be on the table from the beginning of the negotiations," one official said.

"I'm sure there will be tricky issues as we go down the path and we expect agriculture will be a difficult aspect of the negotiations."

In the deal with the US, sugar was excluded from the final agreement after John Howard agreed to the move in a bid to finish the extended negotiations.

The US, in an effort to finish the deal with South Korea, agreed this month to exclude rice. Japanese officials believe that deal, with rice tariff cuts left out, could be a template for an agreement with Australia.

The West Australian also understands Japan will try to replicate the Australia-US deal in how it treats foreign investment, making it much easier for Japanese investors to buy Australian property and companies.

Australian officials said a free trade deal would benefit both nations but the country which liberalised its trading system the most stood to gain the most.

At a regional economic forum in China, Trade Minister Warren Truss said individual free trade deals in the absence of a World Trade Organisation agreement could improve prospects for a global trade pact. There are concerns within the WTO that bilateral deals could undermine its stalled trade talks.
MGR Archive 25.4.2007
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Region Type Price  
Russia Rapan $ 700
USA Jupiter Rice $630
USA Calrose #1 $830
USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
EU Prices Baldo €660
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