Washington wants greater access to Japanese markets; Tokyo says no

The photo symbolizes the hefty influence rice farmers wield over Japanese politics and the stumbling block they present for further opening of its highly protected agriculture sector. Whether to allow more rice imports into Japan is among the few issues that have kept Washington and Tokyo from concluding trade talks. nike air max 2015 czarne asics kinsei 4 gel An agreement between the two is crucial for the launch of a 12-member regional trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a potentially landmark deal for both Mr. Abe and President Barack Obama. Last week, the U.S. Ray Ban nederland Senate moved to clear a path for the pact, voting to open debate on a bill to grant Mr. Obama wider negotiating authority. The move signaled likely Senate approval of the measure, leaving the House as the main obstacle on the U.S. adidas uk side.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bows to a farmer standing next to a rice-paddy field. The photo is used as the cover for Mr. Abe's Facebook page.ENLARGE
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bows to a farmer standing next to a rice-paddy field. The photo is used as the cover for Mr. Abe’s Facebook page. PHOTO: SHINZO ABE OFFICE

In Japan, a top obstacle is rice even though, in economic terms, the grain is barely a footnote in the voluminous trade between the two countries. The U.S. supplied nearly 50% of Japan’s rice imports, valued at $271 million, in 2014, according to U.S. trade data. That is well less than 1% of the $200 billion in annual trade between the two. And the growth potential of the Japanese market has shrunk considerably. air max pas cher Government protection has long kept millions of rice farmers afloat, resulting in chronic oversupply and gradual declines in domestic rice prices. Now, because of currency fluctuations, decreasing consumer demand in Japan and weaker harvests in the U.S., much of the price advantage of American crops has evaporated. Each year, Japan imports 770,000 tons of rice tariff-free, or about 10% of its annual consumption, under a 1995 World Trade Organization quota agreement. Beyond that import quota, Japan maintains a hefty levy of ¥341 per kilogram ($1.30 per pound) on imported rice. Of the total imported, Japan allows a maximum of just 100,000 tons to reach consumers’ tables. The government purchases the rest to keep it from entering the market. It then sells much of it as animal feed at a fraction of the original cost, or re-exports it as food aid. Over the past 19 years, the practice of selling imported rice at a loss cost Japanese taxpayers ¥272.3 billion ($2.3 billion), according to the agriculture ministry. asics italia sede “Only small amount of [American] rice reaches Japanese consumers identified as U.S. rice, despite industry research showing Japanese consumers would buy U.S. high quality rice if it were more readily available,” the Office of the U.S. new balance 373 bleu orange Trade Representative said in its 2015 report on foreign trade barriers. new balance uomo brescia As part of the TPP negotiations, Japan has agreed to ease restrictions on other agricultural items initially described as “sacred,” such as beef and pork. But it has rejected meaningful steps on rice, fearing a backlash from the nation’s 3.3 million full-time and part-time rice growers, trade officials say. Right now, about 20,000 tons of U.S. rice imports reach Japanese consumers’ tables annually. Yadier Molina Womens Jersey In talks this year, including a marathon session last month before Mr. Abe visited Washington, Japan suggested it might create a special import quota of 50,000 tons or so of table rice just for the U.S., according to a person briefed on the talks. The U.S. wants more, while Japanese farmers say even that concession is too great and might invite requests from other rice exporters within the TPP such as Australia and Vietnam.

A farmer plants rice seedlings in a paddy rice field in Narita City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, last month. Rice imports remain an unresolved issue between Tokyo and Washington as they seek to conclude talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership.ENLARGE
A farmer plants rice seedlings in a paddy rice field in Narita City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, last month. ffxiv gil Rice imports remain an unresolved issue between Tokyo and Washington as they seek to conclude talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

“Even a small import increase of 10,000 tons or 20,000 tons could have a big impact on the rice market,” said Akira Banzai, head of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, a powerful farm lobby.

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  • asics elite 3 JA has long been a powerful support base for Mr. Abe’s conservative party. Current market conditions are unfavorable for rice growers in both countries. Japanese farmers have seen domestic demand decline over decades, due in part to the Westernization of Japan’s diet. nike air max flyknit mujer That has led to a gradual erosion in rice prices despite government measures. Meanwhile, U.S. Nike Air Max 2017 Dames groen exporters in California have been hit by a severe drought, as well as a stronger dollar that makes American products more expensive overseas. adidas schoenen As the price gap shrank, Japan last year imported only one-tenth of its 100,000-ton import quota for rice aimed at consumers. It then scurried to buy more lower-grade rice, to be sold as animal feed or for processing, to meet the quota. After domestic rice production tumbled following the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disasters, industrial users and consumers were able to tap into abundant supplies of rice imported from the U.S. and China. But now some of Japan’s industrial users have switched back to domestic rice. adidas gazelle donna Rice cracker maker Kameda Seika Co.

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  • recently reduced the share of U.S. rice in its ingredients to around 50% from 70%. Yoshinoya Holdings Co., a fast-food chain, no longer uses imports at all. “We will continue to watch the prices of domestic and foreign rice, and choose what’s best for us,” said Minoru Maehara, spokesman for Yoshinoya.

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