“Duties on more than 100 vegetable items will be lifted several years after the free trade accord takes effect,” said Minister Hiroshi Moriyama of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at a news conference.
The Ministry reported separately that tariffs on 350 fish and seafood products and about 10 algae products will be eliminated under the agreement including those on sea urchins, octopi and seasoned salmon roes – all popular ingredients in sushi whose current tariffs range from 5-7%
Vietnam, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries reached a broad agreement earlier in October on establishing a free trade bloc covering 40% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and 30% of trade.
Tokyo had fought to keep tariffs on sensitive agricultural products such as rice during a half decade years of negotiations with the 11 other nations including Vietnam, the US, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.
Moriyama dismissed concern over the potential negative impact on farmers from the new trade deal, saying vegetables such as carrots and onions are imported mainly from China, which is not a TPP member, and potatoes cannot be imported in reality due to quarantine restrictions.
“We will take all possible measures” to support farmers who might face competition from cheaper imports, he said.
In the wake of the new trade deal, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier this month pledged to carry out steps to bolster the competitive edge of the country’s agricultural industry, which has been heavily protected until now.
The farm ministry has previously said Japan will eliminate tariffs on about half of the 834 agricultural products subject to duties after the TPP takes effect.
Tariffs on bonito and frozen sockeye salmon will be abolished immediately upon the TPP taking effect, while those on mackerel will be removed over a phase in period of 16 years, according to the Ministry.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has set up a task force to promote measures to help small businesses take advantage of the TPP.
At the first meeting of the team, headed by METI Minister Motoo Hayashi, members agreed to keep the companies well informed about the TPP deal, on which a broad consensus was reached, and start holding briefings for them as early as this month.
The briefings will be held in all 47 prefectures as well as in the other 11 participating countries in the TPP, including Vietnam.
The Japanese government has started briefing local government officials in charge of agriculture and fisheries products as well.
The task force also plans to promote alliances between the farming, commerce and industrial industries to create new businesses in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
As a measure to encourage overseas expansion by small businesses unfamiliar with export procedures, the team will tell them how to draw up their own nontariff or tariff-reduction certificates for their goods required under the TPP pact.