Ag groups threaten to oppose TPP

Published on: Dec 18, 2013

Japan has always seemed to offer significant upside trade potential if included within the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, but if Japan requires special treatment for its agricultural sector, several key agricultural groups have threatened to oppose the deal.

A coalition of the major agricultural organizations said they're likely to oppose a final TPP trade agreement if Japan doesn’t agree to comprehensive trade liberalization, including elimination of tariffs on virtually all U.S. agricultural products.

In a letter sent Dec. 18 to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the 17 groups said the unwillingness of Japanese negotiators to present a comprehensive offer on agricultural products is threatening to undermine the trade talks.

"In previous negotiations, the United States has demanded and received from developing country trading partners full and comprehensive liberalization in the agricultural sector," the letter stated. "Yet in the TPP negotiations, Japan – a rich, developed country – is demanding special treatment for its agricultural sector. We consider an agreement that includes such special treatment for Japan to be unacceptable."

The TPP is a regional trade negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40% of global GDP.

The agricultural organizations pointed out in their letter to Froman that, if Japan is allowed to claim exceptions for sensitive products, other TPP countries inevitably will demand the right to do the same. Countenancing such an action, they said, also will affect future trade agreements, including the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership now being negotiated between the United States and the European Union.

If the United States can’t reach an agreement with Japan that includes comprehensive liberalization in the agricultural sector, it should conclude a TPP deal without the Asian nation, the groups said.

Japan is an important market for U.S. agriculture – the fourth largest – which shipped $13.5 billion of food and agricultural products to the island nation in 2012.

The ag coalition letter was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, American Soybean Assn., International Dairy Foods Assn., National Assn. of Wheat Growers, National Cattlemen's Beef Assn., National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Assn., National Milk Producers Federation, National Oilseed Processors Assn., National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Assn., U.S. Dairy Export Council, U.S. Grains Council, U.S. Wheat Associates and USA Rice Federation.