U.S. ag groups urge TPP without Japan

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 28, 2014 - A coalition of U.S. agricultural groups representing pork, rice, wheat and dairy producers is urging the Obama administration to reach a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without Japan unless Tokyo agrees to provide significant market access for their products.

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The U.S., Japan and ten other Pacific rim nations are currently in TPP talks aimed at creating one of the world's biggest free trade zones. The 12 nations together account for almost 40 percent of the world's gross national product. Negotiations have been slowed by Japan's reluctance to remove tariffs on its so-called “sacred” commodities: rice, wheat, barley, dairy, sugar and pork and beef.

Joining in the call for a treaty without Japan are the National Pork Producers Council, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the USA Rice Federation and the U.S. Wheat Association.

“The U.S. pork industry is very disappointed that Japan continues to refuse to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade,” NPPC President Howard Hill said in a news release. Hill noted that the U.S. meat sector strongly supported Japan's entry into the TPP talks, as did most of American agriculture. “A country can't shield its primary agricultural products from competition and still claim to be committed to a high-standard agreement that liberalizes essentially all goods.”

USA Rice Federation said other countries might try to follow Japan's example if it succeeds in protecting certain products.

“The result would fall far short of a truly comprehensive agreement that would set a new standard for future trade agreements,” the group said in its newsletter, the Rice Daily. “In fact the TPP envisioned by Japan, if it stands, would be the least comprehensive agreement the U.S. has negotiated since the 21st century began.”

The U.S. has never agreed to let a trading partner exempt as many tariff lines as Japan is requesting, NPCC said, putting the number at 586. In fact, in the 17 free trade agreements the U.S. has concluded since 2000, only 233 tariff lines combined have been exempted from having tariff elimination, the group said.

The other nations involved in the TPP talks are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

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