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Mitarai tells of farm trade concern under FTA to Australia biz leaders.

SYDNEY, Feb. 5 Kyodo

Fujio Mitarai, the head of Japan's most powerful business lobby Nippon Keidanren, told Australian business leaders Monday that Australia should pay special consideration to farm trade liberalization in any free trade agreement talks between the two countries, officials traveling with him said.

''In Japan, there are concerns that an economic partnership agreement would have a devastating effect on the agricultural industry,'' Mitarai, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, was quoted as saying to members of the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee.

Mitarai said it is necessary for the two countries to conclude an FTA at an early date, according to the officials.

Ron McNeilly, vice president of the Australia-Japan business committee, cited the gradual elimination of tariffs on some farm products as one of the ways to counter the Japanese concern over agricultural trade liberalization under the planned FTA.

The two countries would be able to form a satisfactory FTA through the elimination of tariffs in stages, the officials quoted McNeilly as saying.

The Japanese and Australian government agreed in December to start FTA negotiations this year.

One of the focuses of the FTA is how to handle agricultural products.

As a major exporter of farm products, Australia is expected to seek full liberalization of farm trade under an FTA with Japan, given the country had stuck to the principle of liberalizing all products in its past FTA negotiations with other countries.

Japanese farmers have expressed objections to trade liberalization in the agricultural sector under the envisaged FTA and have called for the exclusion of beef, dairy products and some other farm items from the abolition of tariffs.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Feb 12, 2007
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