TOKYO - Japan is considering creating quotas for low or no-tariff imports of main agricultural products such as beef and pork in a rush to seal an ambitious Pacific trade deal, Japanese media said on Sunday.
A stand-off between the United States and Japan over access to farm and auto markets has been holding up negotiations over a 12-nation trade pact, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
A bilateral agreement between the two economies, which dominate the TPP, is key to a deal among the 12 nations, which account for 40 per cent of the world economy. Negotiators had hoped to clinch a deal by 2014.
Japan would propose the "TPP quotas" in which it would set the detailed volumes for such products as beef, pork, dairy and rice that it would accept at low or no tariffs, the Nikkei business daily said, without citing the sources.
Beef and pork are among the farm markets that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to protect under the TPP, along with dairy, wheat and sugarcane.
For beef, the TPP quota is likely be set at 500,000 tonnes a year, roughly the level of imports now, Nikkei said.
Japan is considering cutting a 38.5 per cent beef tariff to about 10 per cent over more than 10 years, and tariffs would be raised significantly for imports beyond that as "safeguards" to protect domestic producers, it added.
The quota is likely to be set at around 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes a year for pork, Nikkei added. Japan imports about 760,000 tonnes of pork a year, with the US and Canada accounting for more than 60 per cent, the Nikkei said.
Japan is obliged to buy about 770,000 tonnes of foreign rice a year under the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) minimum access programme, and Japan is in talks with the US to accept up to 50,000 tonnes per year additionally, which could also be part of the quota, Nikkei added.
Separately, Japan is considering cutting top pork duties of 482 yen (S$5.55) a kilogramme to around 50 yen over more than 10 years, public broadcaster NHK said on Sunday.
The higher tariffs for safeguards would likely be double that at around 100 yen if imports surged, it added.
Japan's agriculture ministry could not be immediately reached for comment. Senior trade officials Hiroshi Oe and Wendy Cutler are to meet from Monday in Washington.