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2ND LD: Japan wants 8% of farm products exempt from big tariff cuts: minister+
[July 19, 2008]

2ND LD: Japan wants 8% of farm products exempt from big tariff cuts: minister+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) GENEVA, July 20_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: ADDING FRESH INFO AFTER MEETING WITH WTO CHIEF)

Japan will try to achieve the target of exempting at least 8 percent of all farm products from substantial tariff cuts at next week's key meeting of the Doha Round global trade talks in Geneva, Japan's farm minister said Saturday.

"I think getting more than 10 percent is very difficult," Masatoshi Wakabayashi, agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister, told reporters at the World Trade Organization's headquarters in the Swiss city. "But I don't think I can go back (to Japan) with 6 percent."

The latest text by the WTO for the farm negotiations states that 4-6 percent of all farm products will be exempted from substantial tariff cuts.

Japan had long argued that its so-called "sensitive products" including rice, sugar and wheat should account for more than 10 percent of the total farm products.

This is the first time Japan has lowered the numerical target.

Although the upcoming negotiations will be "very tough," Wakabayashi said Japan will do its best to raise the percentage from 6 percent.

"We want to attain at least 8 percent," he said.

Wakabayashi also said Japan and the European Union agreed that the two will work closely together to protect their sensitive farm products at the ministerial meeting, starting Monday.

Wakabayashi spoke of the agreement at the news conference, held shortly after he and Japan's trade minister Akira Amari had talks with EU trade chief Peter Mandelson.

Wakabayashi said Japan and the European Union share many interests, including their strong opposition to the idea of introducing a tariff cap on farm products, which has been requested by developing countries.

In preparation for the forthcoming meeting, Wakabayashi and Amari, economy, trade and industry minister, also met with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy.

The two ministers said they explained to Lamy some of Japan's high priority issues, including greater market access for industrial goods.

But the ministers declined to go into details about what they had discussed with Lamy.

"As it is strategically important, we can't talk about the substance," Amari told reporters.

Copyright ? 2008 Kyodo News International, Inc.

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