TPP Countries Likely to Forgo Food Safety Changes

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Aug. 28 (Kyodo) — The 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations are likely to forgo any easing of their individually established food safety standards, as the subject is not being discussed, negotiation sources said Wednesday.

While this means Japan can maintain its regulations on food additives and pesticides that are stricter than international standards, easing of such rules could still be dealt with in upcoming rounds of Japan-U.S. bilateral talks to be held in parallel with the TPP negotiations, as the United States has called for simpler regulations.

Some Japanese consumer groups have expressed concern that the TPP negotiations could undermine the country's food safety.

As food safety standards are one of the TPP topics that have already reached the advanced stage of negotiations, no working group sessions on the subject are scheduled to be held during the 19th round of talks underway in Brunei since last Thursday through this Friday.

International standards for food additives and pesticides are set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an organization established by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization. But under a World Trade Organization rule, a country can set its own standards based on scientific grounds, as the frequency and amount of consumption of food products vary from country to country.

In the TPP negotiations, countries have been seeking to retain the WTO rule but create clearer rules on the scientific basis for altering the standards.

The WTO rule is also going to be upheld in the Japan-U.S. parallel negotiations, but the United States has criticized Japan's process for reviewing new food additives as taking too much time and sees its regulation that requires reviews of fungicide separately from those on additives as excessive.

Japan and the United States announced in April that they had agreed to hold their parallel negotiations, in which the outcome will be reflected in the TPP rules or in other forms of regulation.

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