Senate lawmakers are calling on Japan to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers for U.S. agricultural products as part of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.
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 percent of global GDP. Lead negotiators met last week in Singapore – ahead of the TPP ministers meetings Feb. 22-25 – to discuss outstanding issues, including Japan's tariff policies.
In a letter sent Friday to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, 16 senators, led by Michael Bennett, D-Colo., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked for assurances that the TPP negotiations will not be concluded until Japan agrees to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers for agricultural products.
In addition to Bennett and Grassley, signing the letter were Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Richard Burr, R-N.C., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., John Thune, R-S.D., Mark Udall, D-Colo., and John Boozman, R-Ark.
Japan is demanding special treatment for its agricultural sector, including exclusion from the agreement of certain "sensitive" products, says a coalition of ag and livestock groups. The United States never has agreed to allow a trading partner to exempt as many tariff lines as Japan is requesting. It wants exemptions for 586 tariff lines, or 11% of its tariff schedule.
The coalition points out that in the 17 free trade agreements the United States has concluded this century, a total of 233 tariff lines have been exempted from having their tariffs go to zero.
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The senators noted in their letter that, if Japan is allowed to claim exceptions for sensitive products, other TPP countries inevitably will demand the right to do the same. That, they said, would cost U.S. jobs and billions of dollars in future U.S. agricultural exports and would undermine the TPP and future trade talks, including the ongoing Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations between the United States and the European Union.
Coalition members supported the Senators' letter.
"What is achieved in TPP with Japan will set the standard for future TPP partners such as China and the Philippines and for TTIP negotiations," said NPPC President Randy Spronk, who pointed out that the EU already has indicated it will seek to protect pork and other agricultural products.
"Japan's market access offer, if accepted, would be a radical departure from past U.S. trade policy… All U.S. sectors are at risk if the precedent of allowing widespread product tariff exemptions is established."
Bob McCan, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association president, said: "It is fundamentally important that all TPP members, including Japan, abide by the same terms of TPP as the other members. Excluding products for purely political reasons sets a dangerous precedent that will result in other TPP countries seeking similar treatment. This will undermine all efforts to make TPP a true 21st century agreement based on market principles and sound science," said McCan.