U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi are scheduled to begin two days of talks on a free trade agreement in Washington Monday, U.S. government officials tell Agri-Pulse.

The U.S. agricultural sector has been demanding a trade deal with Japan ever since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017. That Pacific Rim pact, now with 11 nations, took force in December and Japan has already dropped its tariffs on beef, pork, wheat and other commodities to the benefit of U.S. competitors like Canada and Australia.

The U.S. exported $13 billion worth of ag commodities to Japan last year, according to USDA data, making it the fourth largest foreign market for U.S. farm goods.

“The U.S. pork industry cannot get a free trade agreement with Japan implemented fast enough,” said Nick Giordano, a vice president for the National Pork Producers Council. “We have a serious problem. We’re losing sales in Japan.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters this week that after a meeting with Lighthizer (shown above), he is hoping for a quick, ag-only deal ahead of a broader free trade agreement with Japan.

But one government official tells Agri-Pulse that USDA is not scheduled to play a role in the talks next week that will mainly be between Lighthizer and Motegi.

The Japanese are expected to make some significant demands for increased access to the U.S. market, according to a report from the Financial Times. No details on the Japanese demands were given, but sources said Japan won’t likely push too hard because Trump is still threatening to hit the country with automobile tariffs.

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