The world trade picture has been muddied in recent years due to the failure to get a new agreement as part of the Doha Round with the World Trade Organization, but that hasn't stopped countries from trying to open markets on a unilateral basis. The process takes longer but the payoff is measurable.
The United States has worked to create agreements in South America - Colombia and Panama for example, and expand trade with North Korea. One area that's been getting attention is the Trans Pacific region where tariffs and other trade barriers can slow commerce. Late last week, the United States announced that Japan would be joining as the 12th participant in the effort to create an agreement between countries in the region for more open trade.
This is welcome news to a number of groups.
The U.S. wheat industry issued a release noting that the boards of directors of both U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers have long supported Japan's inclusion in the TPP negotiations. Notes the wheat industry in its press announcement praising the news: "As we have seen from previous agreements in markets including Mexico, Peru and Colombia, U.S. participation in regional free trade agreements provides real benefits to U.S. farmers and specifically, wheat growers and their customers."
Bob Stallman, president, American Farm Bureau Federation, issued a statement noting that the group is "pleased with the decision of the U.S. to approve the addition of Japan as a negotiating partner in the [TPP]."
Stallman notes that Japan is the fourth largest U.S. agricultural export market, with nearly $1.4 billion in purchases in 2012 and trade with Japan is important to America's farmers and ranchers. "The recent decision by Japan to increase access for U.S. beef shows that Japan can act to improve market access for U.S. agricultural products based on sound science. A comprehensive TPP agreement that includes Japan will strengthen trade relationships, address remaining barriers and improve the competitiveness of the Asia/Pacific market."
Dairy producers also greeted the news positively. Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for strategic initiatives and trade policy at the U.S. Dairy Export Council, comments: "Japan greatly enhances the potential value of the TPP to U.S. dairy producers and processors. Japan is the third largest economy in the world and already a major dairy importer. Reducing excessive tariffs and removing non-tariff barriers to trade will significantly increase U.S. dairy export opportunities."
Castaneda is quoted in a joint release from USDEC and the National Milk Producers Federation who also see the benefits of the move.
The United States started talking with Japan about joining TPP in 2011. The talks also focused on specific bilateral concerns in the automotive and insurance sectors, and Japan non-tariff measures. You can check out a fact sheet on all the details here.