House lawmakers urge Obama to press Japan, Canada to drop ag tariffs

A group of House lawmakers on Wednesday urged President Obama to reject any Asia-Pacific trade deal that doesn’t open Japanese and Canadian agricultural markets.

House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and ranking member Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), along with 138 other lawmakers, wrote in a letter that they are concerned about the status of negotiations with Japan and Canada in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over market access for U.S. agriculture.

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They say that both countries in the 12-nation pact are pressing for the exclusion of numerous tariff lines that would significantly limit access for U.S. farmers and ranchers to those markets.

Without the elimination of those tariffs, lawmakers have said they would be wary of providing their support.

“When Japan joined these negotiations, it agreed that the elimination of tariffs is a key feature of the agreement,” they wrote.

“Unfortunately, Japan’s current position falls far short of acceptability."

They said that for the TPP to be the high-standard agreement envisioned by the participating counties, Obama must “hold Japan and Canada to the same high standards as other TPP partners.”  

They once again suggested that the trade negotiations should continue on without any countries that are willing to abide by their earlier agreement to drop tariffs on sensitive agricultural markets. 

They also said that they are "troubled by Canada’s lack of ambition, which is threatening a robust outcome for U.S. farmers.”

If an agreement is made that doesn't nix tariffs, they are concerned that similar demands could bleed into the U.S.-European Union talks.

“This result runs the significant risk that the EU will be encouraged to make unacceptably weak offers in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, undermining congressional support,” they wrote.