Japan Has 18 Side Letters To TPP, Including On Autos, NTMs, Rice With U.S.

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Japan will exchange at least 18 side letters to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with one or more parties to the deal, including 11 bilateral letters with the United States on issues such as auto trade, Japanese commitments on non-tariff measures in other sectors, and Japan's operation of a new U.S.-specific tariff-rate quota (TRQ) on rice, according to an informal translation of a Japanese government document dated Oct. 5.

October 27, 2015 | Inside U.S. Trade

The document, posted on the website of Japan's Cabinet Secretariat, provides the topic and a one-sentence description of each side letter. It says that all of these side letters were in the process of being finalized as of Oct. 5.

Similar documents exist for all TPP countries, and these were exchanged during the so-called “transparency exercise” at the Atlanta ministerial where each party disclosed the bilateral deals that it had worked out. However, the text of the side letters themselves was not exchanged as part of that exercise.

The U.S. has negotiated more side letters than Japan, but has not publicly disclosed any information about them. The side letters are expected to be released in conjunction with the publication of the final text. U.S. officials have avoided putting a timeline on when the text would be released, instead saying they are working to do so as soon as possible.

The Japanese government document lists four side letters with the United States that are specifically related to autos. They cover general non-tariff measures (NTMs) in the auto sector; recognition of certain U.S. auto standards; automobile distribution in Japan; and the operation of Japan's Preferential Handling Procedure (PHP) certification system. The PHP is a simpler and faster certification method often used by U.S. auto manufacturers to export to Japan.

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