Japanese and American officials ended three days of talks here yesterday on agricultural trade issues with no agreement - a situation that could pose a threat to successful conclusion of multi-lateral trade negotiations (MTN) this year.
But both sides said further talks would take place, and Japanese Agriculture Minister Ichiro Nakagawa broadly hinted at a press conference that his government would improve its present offer to reduce barriers or lower tariffs.
Pleading the case for Japanese agricultural interests, Nakagawa urged U.S. authorities to abandon demands for "precipitable changes" and warned that "pre-occupation" with beef and orange quotas could complicate larger issues between the U.S. and Japan.
The U.S. had asked Japan to substantially increase its present quotas of 45,000 tons of oranges and 90,000 tons of beef, and to lower tariffs on a wide range of other agricultural products including chicken, poultry egg products, and wine.
Increased shipments of agricultural products would only fractionally reduce the huge U.S. trade deficit with Japan, estimated at about $13.5 billion this year, almost double last year. But these products - especially beef and oranges - have great symbolic and political importance in both the U.S. Congress and the Japanese Diet, where agriculture lobbies are strong.
U.S. agriculture exports to Japan in 1977 were $4 billion, of which citrus and beef together accounted for only $136 million.
Nakagawa explained that a surplus of citrus production had developed in Japan as a consequence of a Government direction that switched farmers out of rice into oranges. Production hit a peak this year, resulting in the need to fell 20 percent of the orange trees, "causing great pain for (farm) families."
As for beef, he said that it has been difficult to absorb an increase in hotel quality beef quotas from 1,000 to 10,000 tons. "We will need two stomachs to take in more," Nakagawa declared.
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Nakagawa implied yesterday that the U.S. had asked Japan to increase beef and orange quotas up to 300 percent, and the Japanese delegation, jointly led by special envoy Nobuhiko Ushiba and himself, flatly refused.
Special Trade Representative Robert S. Strauss expressed disappointment. While diplomatically noting "substantial progress", he said at the end of the intensive talks that "we did not achieve our basic negotiating objective for American agricultural exports - and until we do, there's no deal."
Strauss has said repeatedly that "there will be no MTN agreement" unless it corporates arrangements satisfactory to American farm producters. Both sides plan to reconstitute a special meeting on beef and citrus products, and will deal with the other products separately as negotiations resume this fall in Geneva.
A December 15 deadline for completing outstanding agriculture and industrial issues among all of the nations involved was set at the Bonn summit in mid-July.
Nakagawa said at his press conference that he hoped to find "a meeting point" between the U.S. and the Japanese position at later meetings. He added that he had already made an offer "that will not cause substantial damage in Japan", and implied that any agriculture minister would have a problem going beyond that offer.
But in response to a wuestion, he refused to say the offer could not be improved: "If we say there is no more room for compromise, that would not constitute a negotiation.
In what amounted to a public appeal to Strauss "who says we must slim down more, I am saying that I can't slim down so much, the agriculture minister said.
In a formal statement, Strauss said that "it should be clearly understood that the U.S. expects Japan to undertake the responsibility of all industrialized nations to open her markets to imports of both agricultural and manufactured goods.