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Trade Agreements With Japan



In mid-2006, Tokyo announced the launch of free trade negotiations with Brunei, concluded in 2007. Japan`s agreements with Brunei and Indonesia are unique in that they guarantee Tokyo access to oil and gas supplies. Negotiations with India and Australia began in 2007, while somewhere in the pipeline, Colombia, China, Korea, Cambodia and Laos are also on the agenda. Japan has notoriously joined late on the “bilateral train.” Until the late 1990s, the government secured most of its bets on multilateral negotiations in order to open foreign markets to the interests of Japanese companies. However, Japan is increasingly suffering from the loss of market share in free trade agreements between other countries. As a result of NAFTA, for example, Japan felt an urgent need for its own contract with Mexico to ensure that its products benefit from the same tariffs on the Mexican market as those in the United States. Other objectives include other objectives that are slipping into Japan`s bilateral trade agenda: in early 2005, Japan began exploring possible discussions with Switzerland and negotiations began in 2007. In 2006, spurred on by concerns about access to energy resources, Japan pledged to restart discussions for a free trade agreement with Kuwait and other oil and Gas countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Japanese companies are also increasingly concerned about international trade disadvantages, leading to free trade agreements with Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand and even some pious rhetoric about a U.S.-Japan deal. At the end of 2011, Japan expressed interest in negotiating a free trade agreement with Burma. In March 2012, signs of the free trade agreement with Mongolia and Canada were announced. Under President Trump`s leadership, the United States and Japan agreed on early outcomes of negotiations on market access for certain agricultural and industrial products, as well as digital trade.

The United States looks forward to continuing negotiations with Japan for a comprehensive agreement that would address the remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers and ensure fairer and more balanced trade. The agreements presented by Japan are called “Economic Partnership Agreements” (EPAs), because the government believes that the concept of a “free trade agreement” does not cover the broader integration of the economic and social policies that these agreements aim to achieve between partner countries. But these EPAs look like a free trade agreement typical of the United States, New Zealand or the EU, although less ambitious in terms of content. Domestic opposition to free trade agreements crystallized around the announcement of the Japanese government`s intention to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2011 and 2012, and Japanese farmers staged large demonstrations against the agreement to undermine food security that agricultural liberalization could have under the proposed agreement, particularly with regard to rice. Zenroren (National Confederation of Trade Unions) also opposes the agreement, raising concerns about job losses, the opening of the economy to AMERICAN capital and the erosion of living standards and working conditions. Many Japanese opponents see the TPP as a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States. Until recently, Japan focused its bilateral negotiating program on some countries around the Pacific. Important agreements have been signed with Singapore (2002), Malaysia (2004), Mexico (2004), the Philippines (2006), Indonesia (2007), Chile (2007), Thailand (2007), ASEAN as a whole (2008) and Vietnam (2008). The United States and Japan have concluded a trade agreement on market access for certain agricultural and industrial products, with plans to continue negotiations for an expanded free trade agreement.

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