“Japan still needs a little bit more preparation period to create conditions for it to compete” with European farmers, Yamamoto told reporters following his telephone talks with EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan earlier over ongoing negotiations on a Japan-EU free trade pact.
Chief negotiators from Japan and the European Union have been working in Tokyo to resolve differences with a view to sealing a broad trade-deal agreement early next month.
During the phone conversation, Yamamoto told Hogan he wants the 28-member bloc to accept Japan’s request to maintain tariffs on key items, such as pork, lumber and dairy products, on the grounds that rival items from the European Union are more competitive.
Yamamoto declined to comment on Hogan’s response.
The telephone talks came after Yamamoto canceled his trip to Europe to meet with Hogan in person, opting to stay in Japan to focus on making domestic arrangements for the free trade deal.
Also Tuesday, many of the roughly 600 participants in a meeting between the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, an organization representing the interests of Japanese farmers, and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party voiced concerns about an influx of farm products from the European Union under the envisioned trade deal.
A participant from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, said that if imports of cheese, pork, wine and sweets increase from the European Union, the Japanese market will be “taken over,” adding, “The concerns of younger producers are extremely strong.”
In the ongoing talks, Japan and the European Union remain apart over whether and when to eliminate tariffs on Japanese automobiles exported to the bloc and on EU farm products exported to Japan.
They envision a political decision on the issue, with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida eyeing talks with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom as early as this week.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also expressed eagerness to seal a broad agreement at a Japan-EU leaders’ meeting planned to be held on the occasion of the Group of 20 major economies’ summit in Hamburg, Germany, from July 7.