Increased exports resulting from a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would create thousands of direct and indirect jobs, with the vast majority generated by Japan alone, ag stakeholders said in a press conference Monday.
The Obama administration on Friday agreed to accept Japan into the negotiations. Current TPP countries include: United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Japan already has free trade agreements with seven of the 11 TPP countries: Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. TPP countries account for a combined 30% of global GDP.
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 – a statistic the National Pork Producers is adamant about becoming a part of.
"Increasing pork exports are important to many more Americans than just pork producers," said NPPC Vice President and International Trade Counsel Nick Giordano, who pointed out that more than 110,000 U.S. jobs are generated by U.S. pork exports. "We expect having Japan join the TPP will likewise provide increased market opportunities and more jobs for us."
NPPC says Japan is the top value export market for U.S. pork, accounting for almost $2 billion in 2012 sales.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, Cargill Incorporated, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Potato Council and the U.S. Dairy Export Council also joined in the press conference, reiterating commitment to negotiating a "21st century trade agreement."
Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for strategic initiatives and trade policy with the U.S. Dairy Export Council and National Milk Producers Federation, said a key priority for ag groups is the removal of sanitary and phyto-sanitary trade barriers, as well as product-specific trade barriers.
"For most of us, on the potato side, pork, meat, have demonstrated that not only tariffs, but known tariff barriers have become a significant obstacle to trade," Castaneda said. He added that SPS regulations will allow Japan to export products as well as import products based on like trade standards.
However, some difficult topics – such as rice trade – will need to have special attention. Bob Cummings of the USA Rice Federation said special consideration for certain commodities will be worked into negotiations
"It's very clear that rice will be a difficult topic in these negotiations, but there are going to be other difficult topics here. We are hopeful that at the end of the negotiation we are going to end up with a significant improvement with the quality and the quantity of our rice access in Japan," Cummings said.
While bringing Japan into the trade talks could take time to iron out details, "the bottom line," NPPC's Giordano added, "is that TPP with Japan represents the single most important trade negotiation ever for the U.S. pork industry and for most of our colleagues in American agriculture."
"We know if we get a robust TPP that Japan, the United States and the other participants are going to be much better off. And any economist will tell you that economic growth in the TPP countries and globally will be higher than it otherwise would be because of the TPP," Giordano said.
But USA Rice's Cummings reminded conference listeners that negotiations still have a long way to go.
"The negotiations are just beginning and technically haven't even started. We are going to be working very closely with USTR as well as the regular contacts we have with Japanese officials as these negotiation plays out."
Trade negotiations are expected to wrap up this year.