The National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Dairy Export Council Friday welcomed Japan's request to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and urged the U.S. and TPP partners to accept the country into regional trade talks.
NPPC says Japan's economy is second only to China's in the region, and it is the fourth largest U.S. agricultural export market overall. U.S. food and agricultural exports to Japan in 2012 totaled $13.5 billion. Japan is also the top value export market for U.S. pork accounting for almost $2 billion in 2012 sales.
Its budding economy could increase the importance of the TPP to pork producers and other sectors, said NPPC President Randy Spronk.
"Japan's entry into the negotiations will spur interest in the TPP among other countries in Asia and Latin America, and it will signal to other nations that efforts to negotiate more open and transparent trading arrangements will continue, even as multilateral efforts to do so are stymied," Spronk added.
U.S. Dairy Export Council President Tom Suber agreed, noting the increase in economic significance Japan could bring.
"Along with Canada's recent announcement that it will join the talks, Japan's involvement will add additional potential for greater U.S. dairy exports, which will supplement the opportunities in existing TPP participants' markets such as Vietnam and Malaysia," Suber said.
Concerns with speed
Japan's entry at this stage of the talks has sparked concern that it could slow the pace of negotiations with the potential to delay or derail the ambitious outcome that the current members are seeking, USDEC says.
"As is the case with Canada, Japan is a large and profitable market that could provide immediate and measurable benefits for U.S. dairy producers and processors, but only if negotiators achieve real, tangible market access," said Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for strategic initiatives and trade policy, National Milk Producers Federation and USDEC. "Japan would not only need to loosen its restrictive market access scheme, but also liberalize its complex quota system and address non-tariff trade concerns, such as how its food additive approval system currently operates."
U.S. Chief Negotiator and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Barbara Weisel reports that building on the consensus the TPP countries have already achieved on a significant number of the issues under negotiation. Key areas of debate include technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures – also a strong concern of the USDEC.
"The U.S. dairy industry sees real value in the TPP negotiations if we are able to open new markets, like Japan and Canada, use the TPP process to strengthen global trading rules and secure meaningful competition policy changes in New Zealand's dairy sector," Suber said.
The group has already led a broad coalition calling for effective disciplines on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures in TPP negotiations, which place greater reliance on science-based regulations and are fully enforceable, while also going beyond the World Trade Organization’s SPS Agreement on these and related issues.
Negotiations expected to wrap up before 2014
The office of the U.S. Trade Representative says the negotiations will be on an accelerated track toward conclusion of a comprehensive agreement in the 2013 time frame as envisioned by President Obama and the Leaders of the ten other TPP countries.
"We call on the United States and the other TPP countries to quickly welcome Japan into the TPP. We look forward to working closely with the Obama administration and Congress to fashion an agreement that pork producers can strongly endorse," Spronk said.
The TPP negotiations include the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for a combined 30 percent of global GDP. Japan already has free trade agreements with seven of the 11 TPP countries: Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Thailand has also expressed interest in joining the talks. The 16th round of TPP negotiations wrapped up Wednesday, and the 17th round of TPP negotiations will be held in Lima, Peru, from May 15-24.