Japan has told Pacific trading partners it will not abolish tariffs in the five agricultural sectors it considers sacred, the country's economy minister, Akira Amari, said on Monday.
Japan and the 11 other countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Tuesday wrap up a two-day meeting in Singapore, hoping to make headway on the ambitious trade pact after the United States and Japan reported progress last month on overcoming long-running differences on tariffs.
However, Amari said, despite the progress in negotiations with the U.S., Japan will not agree to abolish tariffs on wheat, rice, dairy, sugar, beef and pork (counted as one), but he added that Japan still hoped to contribute to a high-quality pact.
"I think Japan, as well as other countries, are vigorously pushing forward with bilateral ministerial meetings," Amari told reporters on the sidelines of the two-day ministerial meeting.
"The discussions are starting to mesh together quite a bit."
Progress in the Japan-U.S. negotiations was giving some impetus to the broader discussions, Amari added. But he felt it was unlikely a deal would be reached on Tuesday, echoing comments by a senior U.S. official last week.
The minister said he had held a series of two-way talks on Monday, meeting with the U.S., New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Peru and Chile and planned to meet with Australia over dinner.
The other countries negotiating the pact are Canada, Mexico, Brunei, and Vietnam. (Reporting by Masayuki Kitano; Writing by Rachel Armstrong; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)