With Obama in Japan, business groups push for TPP deal

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 24, 2014 - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged Japan and the U.S. to take advantage of President Barack Obama's visit to Tokyo to strike a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.

“We urge our governments in very clear and direct terms to get together and get our issues resolved,” said Jim Fatheree, the president of the U.S-Japan Business Council and senior director for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on a call with reporters. He said it was significant that Japanese business interests themselves were now pushing for a completed TPP.

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Adam Posen, the president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, called the president's visit a "unique opportunity for Japan to advance its own interests."

President Obama's trip to Japan concludes today.

Yesterday's teleconference comes a week after the U.S. Chamber and its Japanese counterparts released a joint statement urging Tokyo and Washington to grant "full market access" to each countries' products, including agricultural goods. The statement was signed by Chamber, the U.S.-Japan Business Council, its counterpart, the Japan-U.S. Business Council, and Keidanren, Japan's Chamber of Commerce equivalent.

Fatheree also said technical agriculture negotiators, including representatives from USDA, are currently “working around the clock” to finish the 12-nation trade deal, of which Japan and the U.S. are the two largest economies.

Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler, Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Darci Vetter and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Agricultural Affairs Sharon Bomer Lauritsen are also in Japan during Obama's visit.

During remarks to Japanese media Wednesday, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman also pushed Japan use TPP to open its markets.

“This is a moment for Japan to take an elevated view, and to choose a bold path of economic renewal, revitalization, and regional leadership,” Froman said.

Though observers say there's little chance Obama's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will result in a major breakthrough, they say the leaders could use the summit to send a strong signal to negotiators.

“When you have a political discussion, and I think both leaders are interested in moving forward, I think things flow from that,” Fatheree told reporters.

The U.S. agriculture industry currently faces significant barriers to trade in Japan, including so-called “megatariffs,” extremely high duties that effectively bar imports beyond a set minimum access amount. Foreign rice, for example, faces a 778 percent tariff once it exceeds its 770,00-ton import quota. As a result, the U.S. rice industry exported only 350,000 tons of rice to Japan during the 2013 marketing year - a tiny percentage of the total 4.5 million tons exported.

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