Japan to offer little in trade talks
Tokyo — Japan will tell the United States it is ''politically infeasible'' for Tokyo to liberalize trade to allow more US exports of beef and fruits to Japan, the leader of a Japanese negotiating team said Tuesday.
Hiroya Sano is leading a government delegation to Hawaii to meet with American officials for three days of farm trade talks expected to focus on Japan's agricultural import quotas.
Mr. Sano said he would attempt to explain that the powerful farming bloc in Japan will impede any significant progress on liberalizing imports. But he said he was uncertain whether the Japanese could persuade the Americans to see Japan's point of view.
Mr. Sano, who heads the economic bureau of the Japanese Agriculture, Forestry , and Fisheries Ministry, added that the Japanese are ready to seek accommodation with the US over import quotas for less politically sensitive farm products, ketchup and peanuts, for instance.
The Japanese official's pessimism about the outcome of the talks was shared by Prof. Koiichi Endo, a leading Japanese authority on agricultural economics, who pointed out that agriculture is less an economic than emotional issue in Japan. He predicted that the Japanese government ''would drag out the decision'' to ease trade barriers.
Japan imposes stringent quotas on imports of 22 categories of farm products, and for years Washington has pressed Tokyo to liberalize trade to restore a balance in overall trade between the two countries.
The US ran up an $18 billion trade deficit with Japan last year, and the figure is expected to top $20 billion this year.