More than a dozen farm groups are warning the federal government they’ll oppose a major Pacific Rim trade agreement unless Japan drops tariffs on American agricultural goods.
Groups led by the National Pork Producers Council in a letter Dec. 18 told U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman the unwillingness of Japanese negotiators to budge on agricultural products could undermine talks on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The groups contend that if Japan is allowed to claim exemptions for sensitive products, other countries will follow suit, which could affect future trade agreements with other parts of the world.
“That would set a precedent,” NPPC spokesman Dave Warner said. “If Japan can do it, all the other countries in the TPP could do that. This would set a really bad precedent as we go into further negotiations on a free trade agreement with the European Union. They have a lot of barriers on U.S. pork going into the EU and we want those phased out.”
Froman’s spokeswoman, Carol Guthrie, pointed to a joint statement from the United States and Japan in March which agreed that if Japan were to join the TPP, it would subject all items to negotiation.
However, “It is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations,” the governments stated.
The TPP is a regional trade negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global commerce, the NPPC explained in a news release. A final agreement would need congressional approval.
Joining the NPPC on the letter were the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Chicken Council, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, U.S. Wheat Associates, the USA Rice Federation and other groups.
Despite the tariff, Japan is the top destination for American pork, as the U.S. sold nearly $2 billion worth of pork to the island nation last year, Warner said. But if the tariff was phased out over 10 years, that amount could double, he said.
The NPPC has suggested that if Japan doesn’t agree to drop its agricultural tariffs, perhaps it should be excluded from the TPP initially and come in later when the agreement is expanded, Warner said.
National Pork Producers Council: http://www.nppc.org
U.S. Trade Representative: http://www.ustr.gov
Letter to the USTR regarding TPP: http://www.nppc.org/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-TPP-12-18-13-Japan-AG-Letter-to-USTR.pdf