A coalition of livestock and grain groups Wednesday asked the Obama administration to conclude Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations without Japan, unless the country agrees to drop tariff exemption requests that could bar complete market access if a deal is reached.
Japan joined TPP talks last spring. The TPP is a regional 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.
Ag groups requesting Japan's elimination from talks include the National Pork Producers Council, International Dairy Foods Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the USA Rice Federation and the U.S. Wheat Association.
Japan holding firm
According to reports from the recent TPP trade ministerial meeting in Singapore, Japanese Minister of the Economy Akira Amari said Japan will not abolish tariffs in the agricultural sectors it considers "sacred.": Those products include dairy, sugar, rice, beef, pork, wheat and barley.
"The U.S. pork industry is very disappointed that Japan continues to refuse to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade," said NPPC President Dr. Howard Hill in an NPPC statement.
Many meat industry groups previously lobbied for Japan's inclusion in the talks, as did several other American agriculture groups.
"A country can't shield its primary agricultural products from competition and still claim to be committed to a high-standard agreement that liberalizes essentially all goods," Hill commented.
The United States never has agreed to let a trading partner exempt as many tariff lines as Japan is requesting – 586. In fact, in the 17 free trade agreements the United States has concluded since 2000, only 233 tariff lines combined have been exempted from having tariff elimination.
Groups argue that if Japan were allowed its exemptions, it would set a bad precedent for future agreements and other countries could demand similar treatment, jeopardizing the entire agreement.
"That precedent would make it much harder to obtain a good outcome for pork and other agricultural products in future trade deals," Hill said.
According to the U.S. Wheat Associates, U.S. negotiators still have a chance to get Japan to provide access to agricultural goods. But if Japan does not concede, U.S. Wheat says the alternative is suspending negotiations with Japan for now, and continuing talks with other cooperative nations.
"It is a big step, but one that will be justified if Japan continues to refuse to open its agricultural sector to meaningful competition," a USW statement said.