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Japan Remains Sticking Point in TPP Talks

Senators want pork considerations front and center; Ag groups threaten to oppose entire deal if Japan's tariffs aren't eliminated

Published on: Dec 19, 2013

In light of recent advancements towards finalizing a Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement with 11 other countries, a group of U.S. Senators last week asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to ensure barriers for the U.S. pork trade are removed.

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% of global GDP.

In a letter circulated by Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and sent Friday to Froman and Vilsack, 32 Senate lawmakers said the TPP talks represent an opportunity for the United States to open new markets to U.S. pork in the Asia-Pacific region, to expand existing markets and to establish a standard for future trade agreements.

Senators want Vilsack, Froman to ensure considerations for U.S. pork make way into TPP negotiations
Senators want Vilsack, Froman to ensure considerations for U.S. pork make way into TPP negotiations

Japan remains a sticking point

While generally supportive of a TPP deal, the Senators pointed out that a number of the TPP nations currently have highly restrictive trade barriers that limit U.S. pork exports. Japan, for example, maintains a complex system of tariffs that reduce the volume of U.S. pork exports, while other countries have non-tariff barriers that constrain U.S. pork shipments.

U.S. negotiators should insist that tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. pork in each TPP country be removed, action that would prompt U.S. pork exports to grow by more than 50% within 10 years, they said.

The National Pork Producers Council, along with 16 other ag organizations, backed up the Senators' demands on Wednesday.

In a letter, the groups said if Japan does not agree to comprehensive trade liberalization, including elimination of tariffs on virtually all U.S. agricultural products, they are likely to oppose the entire deal.

Japan is demanding special treatment for its agriculture sector, including exclusion from the agreement of certain "sensitive" products, the group said.

However, if Japan is allowed to claim exceptions for sensitive products, other TPP countries inevitably will demand the right to do the same. Countenancing such an action, they said, also will affect future trade agreements, including the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership now being negotiated between the United States and the European Union.

If the United States can't reach an agreement with Japan that includes comprehensive liberalization in the agricultural sector, it should conclude a TPP deal without the Asian nation, the groups concluded.

The latest round of talks on the TPP wrapped up on Dec. 10. Though it is unclear if negotiations will be completed before 2014 as originally planned, U.S. Trade Representative reports this month indicate significant progress has been made on an agreement.

Read more on the TPP:
Trade Rep Office Signals TPP Progress
Doha Dead But Trade Lives On Through TPP Talks
Japan Entry Into TPP Offers Ag Benefits
Dairy, Pork Groups Pleased With Japan's Interest in TPP
TPP Must Include Canada Dairy Provisions, NMPF Says