By Randy Spronk, President National Pork Producers Council

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) multi-lateral trade pact appears destined to become the most consequential and far-reaching free trade deal of our generation, thanks almost entirely to the bi-lateral agreement reached last week between the United States and Japan. The agreement paves the way for the world’s third-largest economy – Japan – to formally join TPP talks as early as July, a development strongly supported by America’s 67,000 pork producers and, in fact, the vast majority of  U.S. agriculture. For U.S. agriculture, TPP is an important trade deal even without Japan’s inclusion. It will, for example, eliminate or substantially reduce trade barriers with Vietnam and Malaysia, both of which have policies restricting U.S. pork imports, and both of which are major new markets for American pork exporters.

But Japan’s inclusion transforms the pact into one that is truly historic. U.S. pork exports to Japan in 2012 totaled nearly $2 billion, and reductions in exiting trade barriers will fuel additional exports. As new markets in Asia go, only China offers a larger potential market than Japan. As a market for our agricultural products, Japan ranks fourth globally. U.S. agricultural exports to Japan in 2012 totaled $13.5 billion, making it eight times larger than Vietnam, the next largest market among TPP countries and a country with which doesn’t currently have an FTA.

Because of the transformational effect Japan’s inclusion will have on TPP, it should be included in the talks without delay. Providing Japan with a seat at the negotiating table in July will help guard against delays in the multi-lateral talks while helping to accelerate the move toward higher global standards.

The possibility that global trade barriers will be reduced and eliminated is extremely encouraging to the agricultural community. As a hog producer, I am excited about the prospect of such restrictions being dealt with as part of a TPP agreement and about the potential for expanded exports that this will generate. For pork and many other U.S. agricultural products, including wheat, barley, rice, beef, poultry, dairy products and soybean oil, an FTA with Japan will expand U.S. exports. And as exports expand, prices to farmers will increase and thousands of jobs will be created. We estimate that the increased U.S. pork exports resulting from a successful TPP deal will create over 20,000 new U.S. jobs.

Everyone understands that there are important trade issues that must be addressed satisfactorily before a final TPP agreement will be reached, not the least of which is ensuring that the TPP remains a comprehensive agreement with no product exclusions.

But it is clear that having Japan on the inside provides an opportunity to achieve a truly world-class trade deal and to garner enormous benefits for America’s farmers that otherwise may never again materialize.

About the author: Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn., is president of the National Pork Producers Council  


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