US drops effort to include anti-whaling language in Indo-Pacific pact


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The Biden administration has dropped efforts to pressure Japan to include anti-whaling language in its signature Indo-Pacific trade pact after fierce opposition from Tokyo and concern from some US officials.

The US trade representative had been pushing Japan to accept anti-whaling language in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a trade deal the administration is negotiating with 13 Indo-Pacific nations. But USTR, an agency led by Katherine Tai, has reversed course because of the opposition, according to three people familiar with the move.

The Financial Times reported last week that Tokyo had strenuously objected to including anti-whaling language in IPEF. One senior Japanese official said Tokyo was prepared to abandon IPEF unless the US backed down, which would have dealt a blow to Washington and a deal it hopes will provide an economic counterweight to China.

The move to abandon efforts to pressure Japan comes as President Joe Biden prepares to host Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol for a historic trilateral summit at Camp David on Friday.

Senior officials in other parts of the Biden administration, including the White House and state department, also opposed the USTR’s plan to include anti-whaling language in IPEF, fearing it would jeopardise the deal and open a rift with Japan, arguably the most important American ally in Asia.

The White House and USTR did not comment. Noriyuki Shikata, spokesperson for Kishida, did not comment on the status of the talks but said that it would be “constructive for all the IPEF members to focus on reaching many forward-looking agreements on the positive aspects of the negotiations”.

While Friday’s summit is designed to bolster trilateral co-operation by bringing Tokyo and Seoul closer together in the security realm, the spat over whaling with Tokyo was a thorn in the side of the usually excellent US bilateral relationship with Japan.

“IPEF is not the place to address concerns about whaling, so its removal from the agenda would be a triumph of diplomatic common sense,” said Christopher Johnstone, a Japan expert at the CSIS think-tank and former senior White House and Pentagon official. “Japan’s active partnership in IPEF is far more important to US interests, and a focus on whaling would have placed that partnership at risk.”

The International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling 1986. Until it withdrew from the IWC in 2019, Japan circumvented the moratorium via a clause allowing whales to be killed for “scientific research” purposes, which sparked strong criticism from conservationists and other IWC members.

Since withdrawing from the IWC, Japan has only allowed whales to be caught inside its exclusive economic zone. Its whaling industry has struggled in recent years without expensive subsidies for research and amid a shift in public tastes.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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