Hot news

Japanese eager for Trans-Pacific Partnership with all eyes, including theirs, on NAFTA

If you talk about the North American Free Trade Agreement with Japanese diplomats at the embassy in Ottawa, bodies will lean in and ears will sharpen. The matcha tea on the table might as well be popcorn.

“All the countries, including Japanese, are very closely following the negotiation,” outgoing Japanese ambassador Kenjiro Monji told the Post. “Because if we have to deal with United States, we can learn from this experience. A lot.”

A renegotiation of NAFTA is offering a first public test of how President Donald Trump’s administration handles trade talks. If you’re the Japanese, looking ahead to a second “economic dialogue” with Trump’s team this fall, this is important intel.

In an interview just after a third round of trilateral talks wrapped up in Ottawa, Monji brought up reports that American negotiators are slow to table specific text on contentious issues. He recalled reading speculation that chapters aren’t written because Trump’s thinking is still unknown to his officials. “If you know the goal, negotiation is how to reach it. If you do not have a goal, what do you do?” he said.

Japan has a clear goal. Monji and his team are keen to pitch a speedy conclusion of another rejigged trade deal: the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, declared dead after Trump pulled out in January, is being resurrected as an 11-party text. Canada is a big part of the effort and will soon launch a public consultation, Monji said he was told.

“I learned that … NAFTA is kind of a warning to Canada, because Canada always depended on so much percentage of trade with the United States,” Monji said. “This makes (them) realize the need for diversification for Canadians. So that’s why other trade agreements are important.”

Instead of overhauling the framework of the deal, Japan wants certain U.S.-centric clauses suspended to give Americans the chance, and incentive, to re-join later. One example is an intellectual property chapter, economic counsellor Junichi Yokota said.

Chief negotiators met in Japan in September and will meet again in late October. Partners hope to announce an agreement in principle by early November when the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meets in Vietnam (a formal signing would likely come a little later).

Monji acknowledged a few Canadian industries have concerns with the TPP: fisheries, agriculture, seafood, lumber and auto parts. He also acknowledged whatever happens with NAFTA could affect how these industries perceive other trade agreements.

The Canadian market is important for Japanese automobile producers, who face a six-per-cent duty but compete against South Korean and European companies that now have tariff-free access to Canada within other free trade agreements.

Monji pointed out he was wearing a tie with a pattern of little cars on it. He wore this on purpose. After buying 20-something ties in Canada, the ambassador’s collection has reached more than 430, he said. (Monji also pointed out his cufflinks. One was a tiny pen. The other was a tiny paper clip.)

It so happens Monji is one of the world’s foremost experts on sake, an alcohol made with rice. He noted a five-per-cent tariff on sake would be eliminated under the TPP. But provincial liquor control boards are the real problem, he said, because of per-bottle fees.

In the last few weeks of his posting to Canada, after which Monji said he will retire, he is working with the LCBO to encourage them to put more sake varieties on the shelves. It’s a “chicken and egg” thing, he said. If there’s more choice, people will get to know it better, then they’ll buy more of it.

Sake imports have increased 20 per cent in the last year, he said, and it’s a versatile liquor that goes well with French, Italian and Canadian food in addition to Japanese cuisine. Though he hasn’t tried the pairing himself, Monji said he can think of at least one specific bottle, aged 10 years, to match with poutine.

Source: National Post

Các bài khác