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Japanese farmers worried about trade deal with US

In this photo taken in May 2013, a farmer tends to his cows in Nakashibetsu, Hokkaido. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese farmers expressed concern Monday after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed the previous day, in principle, to a trade deal with the United States that will lower tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports.

"This will definitely have an impact on farm producers (in Japan)," said a person working for an agricultural cooperative in Kagoshima Prefecture, the country's largest producer of beef.

The person, who asked to remain unnamed, called on the government to impose safeguards against a potential surge in U.S. farm imports that would hurt domestic production.

Abe agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday at their meeting held on the sidelines of a Group of Seven summit in France to accelerate negotiations to sign a trade deal by the end of September, possibly when they meet again at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

The deal will be "a big plus for both of our economies," Abe said after meeting Trump in the French resort town of Biarritz.

Japan will grant greater market access to U.S. farm products including beef, pork, cheese and wheat in exchange for the removal of tariffs on many industrial exports except for automobiles.

Tokyo will also import an additional 2.5 million tons of corn from the United States for use as animal feed, with private firms bumping up their plans for imports, Japanese government officials said. The amount is equal to about one-fourth of the annual imports.

Some Japanese farmers breathed a sigh of relief that the tariff cuts will not be deeper than those under the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional free trade agreement with 10 other countries including Australia and Canada that took effect late last year.

"It's good that TPP-levels will be the limit," said a farmer in Obihiro, Hokkaido, whose farm has about 5,500 head of cattle. The farmer also asked not to be named.

Under the TPP, which the United States pulled out of in 2017, Japan will gradually lower its 38.5 percent tariff on beef to 9 percent. The pact is formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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