Obama OKs Japan to join Trans-Pacific Partnership talks

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2013 - After over a year of consultations, the White House approved Japan's entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. While ten other nations involved in the negotiations still have to approve Japan's admission into the TPP negotiations, the U.S. decision marks a crucial step in advancing the regional trade pact.

“The United States and Japan have successfully completed these consultations by concluding a robust package of actions and agreements with Japan in the automotive and insurance sectors, as well as other non-tariff measures,” said Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis in a statement announcing the agreement.

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“As a result, we are pleased to welcome Japan's participation in the TPP negotiations pending a consensus agreement among the current TPP members and the completion of our respective domestic processes. Japan's entry into this important initiative for the Asia-Pacific region will help it to deliver significant economic benefits to the United States, Japan and the Asia-Pacific region."

“The TPP will support American jobs and reflect core U.S. values, and the addition of Japan will further distinguish TPP as the most promising platform for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific,” he noted.

Other participants include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru and Vietnam. Japan already has free trade agreements with seven of the 11 TPP countries: Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The National Pork Producers Council praised the Obama administration for agreeing to accept Japan into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.

“The addition of Japan to the negotiations will exponentially increase the importance of the TPP to pork producers and to other sectors of the U.S. economy,” said NPPC President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn. “Japan's entry into the trade talks 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.”

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 the top value export market for U.S. pork, accounting for almost $2 billion in 2012 sales.

Sen. Mike Johanss, R-Neb., also welcomed the announcement and noted the opportunity to expand more agricultural exports.
 “I look forward to a comprehensive agreement that lowers tariffs and includes science-based standards for market access. Japan recently removed some barriers to U.S. beef - we should build on that progress with a strong agreement that benefits our economy, farmers, and workers, as well as our negotiating partners,” he said in a statement.
However, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., put the Obama administration on notice that Japan must do more to open markets for U.S. companies, especially those in the auto sector. Stabenow chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and serves a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over international trade agreements.

“The challenges of concluding a truly fair and effective trade agreement with Japan are immense. For decades, Japan has implemented egregious barriers that have blocked the import of American automobiles, drastically increased our trade deficit and cost Americans their jobs,” she said in a statement.

“I appreciate the Administration's efforts to stand up for our auto industry and get Japan to come to the table to address its anti-competitive practices,” Stabenow emphasized. “But if Japan does not ultimately agree to stop blocking American companies from its markets, I will urge the President and the Congress not to ratify this trade agreement. Any agreement that allows Japan's businesses to continue playing by one set of rules while ours are forced to play by another will cost us jobs, and I will do whatever I can to stop it.”

Stabenow pointed out that the U.S. trade deficit with Japan is $76 billion, making our trade deficit with the country higher than any other nation except China,

Detailed information about the United States' consultations with Japan can be found here.

During consultations, on February 22, 2013, the two Governments issued a Joint Statement confirming that if Japan were to join the TPP, Japan would subject all goods to negotiation and join the current members in achieving a comprehensive, high-standard agreement.


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