U.S. pushes for more access to Japan auto, insurance markets

Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:54am EDT
 
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By Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) - The United States urged Japan on Monday to open its auto and insurance markets more to foreign companies as the two countries pursue bilateral talks linked to a broader free-trade agreement that covers two-fifths of the globe.

The United States hopes to make a proposal to Japan on its trade barriers in September, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said, as part of a drive to reach a conclusion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade initiative by the end of the year.

Reports that Japan's government is willing to phase out tariffs on 85 percent of goods under negotiations for the TPP are a "good initial step", Froman said, suggesting there was still a gap between the trading partners.

"The foreign share of the Japanese auto market is about 6 percent," Froman told a news conference.

"The foreign share of the U.S. auto market is closer to 40 percent. I don't think there is any question that the U.S. market is quite open."

The U.S. government has long pushed for fewer tariffs on its cars and more access to Japan's insurance market but has met with little success.

U.S. markets are some of the most open in the world, Froman said, suggesting there was not much that the United States could offer in return to the access that it was seeking.

However, making it easier for foreign firms to do business in these two areas would increase Japan's productivity, contribute to its economic growth strategy and help secure progress in TPP negotiations, Froman said.   Continued...

 
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman (L) talks with Japan's Economics Minister Akira Amari before their luncheon in Tokyo August 19, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai