Australia's embattled beef industry has urged the government not to risk scuttling a free-trade deal by rejecting Tokyo's demands to scrap the 5%tariff on imported Japanese cars.
A senior Japanese government source said that Tokyo was confident a deal could be done before Australia's federal election in September.
However, the government is pushing back against Japan's call for Australia to cut remaining tariffs on imported Japanese cars after the Ford closure. Japan has offered to widen access for Australian beef producers in exchange for dropping the car tariff for imported Japanese cars to Australia.
Meat and Livestock Australia's Lachie Hart and the Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement Taskforce urged the government to overlook problems with the car industry and support beef producers. The comments underscore fears within the beef industry that the decision by Ford to close its Australian plants would jeopardise the FTA. Ford blamed the high dollar and import competition for its decision to close Australian production in 2016.
The beef industry is linked to more than 200,000 jobs nationally and generates Aus$16 bill. a year for the economy.
The Labor MP and parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Andrew Leigh, said after a visit to Tokyo that tariff cuts "are not going to be on the table". The remark coincided with an unusually blunt attack by Trade Minister Craig Emerson on Japan's central bank for flooding its economy with money and driving down the value of the yen.
Mr. Hart said time was running out for both Australia and Japan to clinch a deal, with Japan facing upper house elections in June and Australia slipping into caretaker mode ahead of the federal election.
Source: Meat and Livestock Australia