U.S., Japan eye gap over agriculture, autos at trade talks

Reuters
U.S. Trade Representative Froman announces a trade enforcement action tied to India, in Washington
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U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announces a trade enforcement action tied to India in his offices in Washington, February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Japan will aim to find common ground on sticking points such as agriculture and autos at the next round of negotiations on a Pacific Rim trade pact, the U.S. Trade Representative said on Saturday after top-level talks.

After meeting Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari in Washington, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the two countries agreed to work towards a comprehensive agreement at Trans-Pacific Partnership talks scheduled for next week in Singapore.

"Ambassador Froman and Minister Amari agreed on the importance of narrowing differences between the United States and Japan on agriculture and other market access and rules issues," Froman's office said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Amari was not immediately available for comment. Before the meeting, Japanese media had quoted Amari as saying a compromise between the United States and Japan, the biggest economies in the TPP, over controversial items was key to reaching a broad agreement at the Singapore meeting.

The United States had hoped to wrap up the TPP, which aims to cut tariffs in countries making up 40 percent of the world economy and set common standards on a range of other issues, by the end of last year.

But obstacles remain over issues including Japanese protection of sensitive agricultural products, such as rice, and U.S. automakers' fears of increased competition from Japan.

"Securing strong outcomes with Japan, including for American autos and agriculture, remains a high priority," Froman said.

The other countries negotiating the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Ministerial meetings are scheduled to start in Singapore on February 22.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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