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US Urges Japan on Opening Markets      10/21 06:43

   TOKYO (AP) -- U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker is urging Japan to be 
bolder in opening its markets to help reach a deal on a pan-Pacific trade 
agreement.

   Pritzker, who is leading the Commerce Department's first trade mission to 
Japan in two decades, said Tuesday that U.S. and Japanese negotiators were 
closing the gap on trade in farm goods and vehicles but that there were still 
"tough issues" to work on.

   "It is time for all of us to be bold. Incremental steps will not lead us to 
the high-standard outcome that we all agreed to pursue when we joined the 
negotiations," Pritzker told a group of U.S. and Japanese business executives. 
She said "strong outcomes" were needed in both agriculture and auto trade talks 
to get a deal approved by the U.S. Congress and Japanese lawmakers.

   Japan is the second largest source of foreign direct investment in the 
United States and its fourth largest trading partner overall.

   The 12-nation trade pact, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is 
the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's trade policy and his effort to 
shift U.S. strategic attention to Asia. Pritzker said it could yield tens of 
billions of dollars a year in economic gains and increased exports for each 
side.

   The pact, aimed at cutting tariffs and setting trade rules, is seen as a 
precursor to a future wide free-trade arrangement for the entire Pacific Rim 
region.

   Yet, an agreement has remained elusive, with informal deadlines long passed. 
Critics of the plan say the negotiations are too secretive and are likely to 
favor the interests of big multinational corporations over those of ordinary 
workers and consumers.

   Apart from the U.S. and Japan, other countries negotiating the trade deal 
are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, 
Singapore and Vietnam. But a deal between the U.S. and Japan, the two largest 
economies, is considered vital to its success.

   Executives from 20 leading medical and energy technology companies paid 
thousands of dollars each to join the trade mission to Japan and South Korea, 
Pritzker's first visit to Asia as commerce secretary.

   The group includes huge conglomerates Cargill Inc. and The Dow Chemical Co., 
energy companies such as Oregon LNG and companies specializing in leading edge 
medical technologies.

   Apart from the trade talks, the U.S. is discussing ways Japan can open its 
annual $300 billion health care market wider to foreign companies, said 
Pritzker, citing uncertainties over insurance reimbursements for medicines and 
other treatments as a key issue.

   The last such trade mission to Japan was in the early 1990s, just as Japan's 
economy was sliding into a two-decade long funk. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has 
made economic revival his top priority, with limited success.

   Asked why there was such a long hiatus in trade missions to the world's 
third-largest economy, Pritzker said she was perplexed.

   A renewed effort by both countries, with President Barack Obama pushing for 
TPP and faster growth in exports and Japan promising faster economic reforms, 
is creating new opportunities, she said.

   "My feeling is that we need to take advantage of the kind of open door 
that's being created by Prime Minister Abe and President Obama," she said.


(KA)


 
 
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