WASHINGTON, February 8, 2012 -With Doha Round trade agreement negotiations stalled and bilateral agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama ratified by Congress last year, U.S. farm and agribusiness groups have focused increasing hope on negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that holds promise for elimination of tariffs and other trade barriers that slow export growth.

Like negotiating sessions that led to the Uruguay Round agreement but failed to bridge gaps in the Doha Round, the next round of TPP talks in Melbourne, Australia, March 1-9 will attract a significant number of farm organization and food trade experts from Washington who endorse the U.S. goal of an agreement that eliminates tariffs and non-scientific trade restrictions.

The negotiations have grown to nine countries – Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam – and could expand this year to take in Canada, Japan and Mexico. U.S. food and farm groups are especially intrigued by prospects for Japan opening its highly restrictive markets in such an agreement, many of them said in formal comments filed last month with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Typical of U.S. food exporter enthusiasm for including Japan is that of ConAgra Foods, which expects to sell more frozen French fried potatoes if an 8.5% tariff and restrictions on food ingredients and processing aids are eliminated. “Japan’s participation in the TPP, with its high standards for trade liberalization, would be a game changer for U.S. trade with Japan across many products and sectors,” wrote Brent Baglien, ConAgra vice president, government affairs.

Leaders of commodity groups that have been frustrated by Japanese agricultural protectionism in the past also endorsed Japan’s inclusion. But the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association wants to see Japanese officials “first exhibit their willingness to abide by higher standards by relaxing the age restriction on beef imports.” It sees the TPP negotiations having “the potential to be the beginning of new era in global trade where tariff and non-tariff barriers are eliminated and standards are based on sound, objective science instead of political protectionism.”


Original story printed in February 8, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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