PM intervenes in hope to break Japan trade deal deadlock

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will meet one-on-one on Sunday night with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in a last ditch bid to break a deadlock in free trade agreement talks.

With free trade talks bogged down over details regarding Australian agricultural exports, the meeting between the two most senior men suggests the only path forward needs to be identified at the top level.

Mr Abbott arrived in Tokyo on Saturday night at the head of a large delegation of senior Australian business figures including billionaires Kerry Stokes and James Packer and the head of his Commission of Audit Tony Shepherd.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb has also been in Tokyo in recent days hammering out details towards the agreement which it is still hoped can be made on Monday.

Mr Robb met for five hours on Saturday with his Japanese counterpart and talks continued into Sunday.

A free trade agreement between Australia and Japan, Australia’s second largest trading partner, is expected to be worth tens of billions of dollars to the Australian economy over the next two decades.

Frustration is high regarding Japanese resistance to freeing up access to the dairy market – mostly associated with cheddar – but Australia's trade negotiators are still hopeful of a last-minute breakthrough.

Progress on beef, where Australia wants to halve the 38.5 per cent tariff, has been even more elusive.

Fairfax Media reported on Saturday that an offer to Japan to match the three-year phase-out of tariffs on imported Korean cars had so far failed to seriously crack Tokyo's resolve to protect its heavily protected beef and cheese industries.

This story PM intervenes in hope to break Japan trade deal deadlock first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.