US beef, pork producers push for trade deal with Japan

US beef, pork producers push for trade deal with Japan
© Getty Images

Business groups representing the beef and pork industries on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to start trade negotiations with Japan.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council sent a letter to President Trump ahead of his Friday meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling for a bilateral deal that would lower tariffs and reduce barriers for their products.

ADVERTISEMENT
Japan is the biggest market for U.S. beef and pork exports.

“There is strong demand for U.S. beef and pork in Japan, and our presence in Japan’s market could be much larger with the reduction or elimination of tariffs and other import measures,” the letter says.

In 2016, Japanese consumers purchased $1.4 billion of beef products and $1.5 billion of pork products.

"Securing strong market access to Japan and other Asian markets is a priority for the U.S. beef and pork industries, and we appreciate the president’s leadership and dedication to making our products the most competitive around the world,” said NPPC President John Weber, a pork producer from Dysart, Iowa.

The groups had backed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which would have cut Japan’s 38.5 percent tariff on fresh and frozen beef to 9 percent over the phase-in period and would have provided parity with Australia in the Japanese market.

Japan’s tariffs on pork, which are determined through a so-called gate price system, would have been substantially reduced as part of the TPP deal, the letter said.

“While we may not agree with the decision to withdraw from the TPP, we respect that this is the position of the U.S. government, and we request that you prioritize securing strong market access to Asia-Pacific markets for U.S. beef and pork exports,” the letter says. 

An analysis by the U.S. International Trade Commission found that beef exports to TPP countries would grow by $876 million a year by the end of the phase-in period and that most of that growth would be in trade to Japan.

The ITC found that pork exports to TPP countries would grow by $387 million, with the most being to Japan.

Nearly 9,000 U.S. jobs would be generated by the increase in exports of livestock products, according to the Department of Agriculture's export multiplier.

The groups argue that moving forward on a trade deal with Japan would "help stimulate interest among other former TPP members and Asia-Pacific nations in their own bilateral agreements with the United States."

"We realize that our competitors are doing their best to secure preferential trade agreements in many of these markets, and we are concerned that if we do not act soon, we will fall further behind our competitors in these important market," the letter says.

"It is out of this sense of urgency that we respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss our trade priorities and provide you with our recommendations."