U.S. drops anti-whaling wording opposed by Japan in Indo-Pacific pact

The United States has abandoned efforts to include anti-whaling language in its Indo-Pacific trade pact following fierce opposition from Japan, sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

The resolution of the main point of contention between two key members of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework has paved the way for a comprehensive agreement to be reached at a summit in San Francisco in November.

After withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission in 2019, Japan resumed commercial whaling in waters off its shores. The inclusion of anti-whaling language in the trade pact would have made it difficult for Japan to continue such practices.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden had been pushing for the inclusion of anti-whaling language in the IPEF since launching the framework in May 2022, according to the sources.

The issue was originally addressed under "fair trade," one of the four pillars of the pact being negotiated, but its explicit mention was strongly opposed by Japan.

The United States abandoned its efforts this summer, apparently to avoid jeopardizing the overall negotiations, the sources said.

The IPEF represents about 40 percent of global gross domestic product. It currently groups Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which entered into force in July 2020 in substitution of the North American Free Trade Agreement, explicitly prohibits "the killing of great whales for commercial purposes."

While Mexico and Canada are not members of the IPEF, the U.S. government was considering incorporating similar wording into the new trade agreement, according to the sources.

© Kyodo News