The top U.S. trade negotiator says Japan needs to do more to open its market to U.S. insurers.

“Normalizing trade for U.S. beef and securing a level playing field for U.S. insurance providers are two issues that remain of serious concern,” U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk says in a statement about a review of U.S. Japan regulatory reform and competition policy efforts. “I look to Japan to ensure these concerns are addressed as quickly as possible.”

Kirk, an Obama administration appointee, was mayor of Dallas from 1995 to 2002.

U.S. and Japanese negotiators have included discussions in their progress report of topics such as the Japanese rules governing bank insurance sales programs and the Japan Post Insurance privatization initiative.

The authors of the report note, for example, that Japan says the same regulations now apply both to Japanese Post Insurance and to private insurers, and that it has been making the efforts necessary to tell consumers that the Japanese government no longer backs Japanese Post insurance products.

The American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, has welcomed Kirk’s call for action on insurance trade concerns.

“His comments reassure the U.S. life insurance industry that the U.S. government values a level playing field for U.S. based insurers operating in Japan, and continues to work arduously on the issue,” ACLI President Frank Keating says in a statement.

But Keating notes that Japan has been active in regulatory reform talks and efforts to “create equal terms of competition in the Japanese insurance market.”

“These commitments are an example to other nations that operate postal insurance entities,” Keating says.

A copy of the report is available here.