Japan, U.S. Agree To Finish Doha By Deadline

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- Japanese farm minister Hirotaka Akamatsu said Thursday he and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk have agreed to work closely to bring the stalled multilateral trade liberalization talks to a successful conclusion by the end of next year.

Separately, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Kirk pointed to the need for Japan to fully reopen its beef market to U.S. exports.

Akamatsu told a news conference Japan and the United States will hold bilateral consultations, formally and informally, to help narrow the gap in the Doha Round of negotiations under the World Trade Organization and complete them by the deadline.

For his part, Kirk "emphasized the United States' resolve to achieve an ambitious and balanced conclusion" to the Doha Round, his office said in a statement.

Efforts are under way among WTO members to conclude the Doha Round within 2010, following the Geneva-based global trade watchdog's failure to achieve progress in the round since ministerial talks collapsed in July 2008 amid a dispute between some advanced and emerging economies.

On bilateral issues, Kirk "stressed the importance the Obama administration attaches to securing greater access to Japan's beef market in a manner that is consistent with science and international standards," the statement said.

The United States has repeatedly urged Japan to bring its measures on mad cow disease in line with international guidelines set by the World Organization for Animal Health, allowing imports of all U.S. beef and beef products derived from animals of all ages deemed safe under OIE guidelines.

Akamatsu said he did not raise the issue of a free trade agreement between Japan and the United States, despite his Democratic Party of Japan seeking to enhance trade and investment liberalization with Washington by promoting talks on such arrangement.

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