Pork exporters expect decade-long Japanese tariff reduction in TPP

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2015 - Officials in the U.S. pork industry expect the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will mean greater access for their products to the Japanese market, but they say it may be years before exporters feel big results.

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In a conference call from Tokyo, National Pork Board CEO Chris Hodges said he expects Japan to reduce tariffs for the meat, but the cuts will probably be a “metered reduction over a 10 year period.”

Japan's current tariff is 482 yen per kilogram (about $1.81 per pound). Hodges said any reduction likely wouldn't have much of an impact in the first three years, but “over time, that price spread that we've got now is going to be diminished.”

“Japanese prices are going to be a lot closer to U.S. prices,” Hodges said, adding that tariff cuts could also lead to “a greater range of products” going into Japan. According to the National Pork Producers Council, Japan is the top export market for U.S. pork with $1.93 billion in export value in 2014.

Hodges said importers in Japan are in favor of tariff reduction, but pork producers in the island nation “are not real excited about that.”

John Anderson, deputy chief economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said achieving a balance between those interests will be a key challenge for negotiators involved in the 12-nation discussions.

“Consumer interests aren't unimportant, certainly, but I think the real challenge for the government of Japan and for any other country negotiating these kind of deals is how you balance the interests of the different producing sectors,” Anderson said from Tokyo.

Hodges said politics will probably play a role in speeding up the talks, now in their fifth year. National elections will be held in Canada next month and in November 2016 in the U.S., and Hodges said that “the Japanese want to get this thing concluded this fall for fear that either one of those elections could really slow this down, if not stop it.”

Japan's pork market has been one of the key agricultural snags in TPP negotiations. Canada's reluctance to allow greater entry into its dairy market and the U.S. protection of its sugar market have also been roadblocks.

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