Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Thursday 12/19/13

Ag Groups Draw a Hard Line on Japan and TPP Talks

Seventeen major agricultural lobbies wrote U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman on Wednesday expressing their concern about Japan's role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The groups state they had all showed "past strong support" for the Pacific rim trade deal, but they have "watched with growing alarm" Japan's lack of interest in offering a more comprehensive proposal on agricultural products, "and we now believe this situation is threatening to undermine the negotiations."

Groups signing on to the letter include commodities and ag products with major markets in Japan, including the National Pork Producers Council and National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Corn, soybean, chicken, milk, turkey, wheat and rice groups also all joined the letter as well as the American Farm Bureau.

As the groups noted, "Japan – a rich, developed country – is demanding special treatment for its agricultural sector" in the Pacific trade talks. "We consider an agreement that includes such special treatment for Japan to be unacceptable.

"If Japan is allowed to claim exceptions for sensitive products, other TPP partners will inevitably demand the

right to do the same. This could quickly lead to the unraveling of the agreement, as other parties pull their offers

on sensitive products, or their concessions on sensitive issues, off the table."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership right now includes the U.S., Japan, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. However, there are prospects that China and Taiwan could become part of the negotiations. China's inclusion and the potential that it too demand special agricultural preferences was noted by the farm groups in the letter to Froman. Moreover, this situation could spill over into the Atlantic and talks with the European Union.

"As the TPP expands to include other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, we can expect other countries with sensitivities in the agricultural sector, such as China, to make similar demands. Moreover, a weak agreement with Japan would inevitably have significant negative implications for our ability to reach an acceptable agreement with the EU in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations."

The deal with Japan could affect billions of dollars in future exports and thousands of jobs, the groups noted. Thus, if Japan can't come to terms with a more liberal trade package on agriculture, then the American agricultural sector wants Japan culled from the TPP or key players in the U.S. farm lobby would find it difficult to support a final trade deal.

A copy of the letter, with the full list of groups signing on, can be found on the National Pork Producers Council website, http://www.nppc.org/…

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.

Posted at 7:08AM CST 12/19/13 by Chris Clayton
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