Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement

Newsletter Update 8

Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement – Eighth Negotiating Round

The eighth round of negotiations on the Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was held in Tokyo from 9 to 13 March.

The focus of the round was on initial services and investment market access requests.  Although both sides gave preliminary responses only, the atmosphere was constructive.  Australia continued to signal the priority of financial services, telecommunications, legal services and education.

In the goods market access discussions over the last few rounds, we have focused on Japan’s offer on agriculture and sought to demonstrate that preferential liberalisation for imports from Australia would not necessarily have a major impact on Japan’s agriculture sector.  Discussions at the eighth round focused on rice, wheat, sugar and starch.

On trade in services, both sides had a constructive exchange of views on proposed text.  Progress was made on the movement of natural persons (covering temporary entry of businesspeople into Australia or Japan for work purposes), with useful discussions on key issues such as transparency.  Both sides had productive discussions on financial services, and Japan demonstrated an increased engagement on telecommunications.  On investment, we made further progress on negotiating the chapter text.

We made good progress in the session on rules of origin, with both sides continuing to show flexibility.  The two sides continued to discuss product specific rules of origin; we made reasonably good progress on industrial goods, but remain further apart on agricultural goods.  We made some further progress on the chapter on customs procedures, and are hopeful we can reach agreement on most of the outstanding issues in this chapter at the ninth round.

We made some good progress on elements of the chapter on technical barriers to trade, removing a number of square brackets in the text, but remain quite far apart on several issues.  We resumed discussions on possible FTA provisions on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, focusing on how FTA-specific cooperation mechanisms might operate.

Both sides outlined how their thinking has been developing with respect to Japan’s proposals on provisions to improve the security of supply of food and energy and mineral resources.  We stressed that the discussion was without prejudice to the question of whether Australia could agree to include any specific provisions, noting that this would depend on progress in other parts of the negotiations.

The two sides discussed a single square-bracketed text on government procurement for the first time, but a good deal more work will be required before we can move to the market access stage of negotiations.  Good progress was also made in the intellectual property chapter negotiations and substantial agreement has been reached on a majority of provisions.  We also continued to make progress on the e-commerce chapter, and on dispute settlement and other legal and institutional issues.

We welcome input on issues of relevance to the Australia-Japan FTA negotiations. For further information, please email JapanFTA@dfat.gov.au.