Up­com­ing trade deal should help U.S. farm­ers

Lodi News-Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Evan Ram­stad

The U.S. is on the verge of a trade deal with Ja­pan that will open the Ja­panese mar­ket to Amer­i­can beef, pork and other food prod­ucts.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe are ex­pected to ap­prove the deal at a meet­ing on the side­lines of the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly gath­er­ing in New York next week. Trump called it an "ini­tial trade agree­ment" in a state­ment ear­lier this week.

"This is a big deal for the U.S. agri­cul­ture com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly at a time when the China trade war is dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pact­ing them," Wendy Cut­ler, vice pres­i­dent of the Asia So­ci­ety Pol­icy In­sti­tute, said on a visit to Min­neapo­lis.

"They've al­ways said 'We don't want sub­si­dies from the U.S. gov­ern­ment, we want new mar­ket ac­cess.' In Ja­pan, this will be new mar­ket ac­cess," Cut­ler said.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is also near­ing terms on a trade deal with In­dia, aim­ing to be wrapped at the U.N. meet­ing as well.

The White House has por­trayed both as "minide­als" that are lim­ited in scope and won't re­quire con­gres­sional ap­proval.

With Ja­pan, the U.S. has been seek­ing ac­cess for food prod­ucts that is sim­i­lar to what the two coun­tries, along with 10 oth­ers, agreed to in form­ing the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Trump pulled the U.S. out of that mul­ti­lat­eral pact on his third day in of­fice in early 2017.

Ja­pan and the other coun­tries went ahead with a mod­i­fied form of TPP that did not in­clude the U.S., a move that left U.S. farm­ers and other ex­porters be­hind in sell­ing goods in Ja­pan, which has the third-largest econ­omy in the world af­ter the U.S. and China.

Though spe­cific terms are still be­ing ham­mered out, it ap­pears that U.S. farm­ers will get ac­cess to Ja­pan at the stage of tariff re­duc­tion that the coun­tries that stuck with the mod­i­fied TPP en­joy.

"Most of those other coun­tries have ex­pe­ri­enced two stages of cuts. We would come in right at that same stage," said Cut­ler, a for­mer U.S. trade ne­go­tia­tor who was in­volved in the TPP talks and led the U.S. side in form­ing a free-trade agree­ment with South Korea.

She left gov­ern­ment be­fore Trump's elec­tion. In a speech hosted by Global Min­nesota and Sasakawa Peace Foun­da­tion USA this week, Cut­ler said trade ex­perts knew that TPP would be­come a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign but that walk­ing away from the deal has been costly to U.S. busi­nesses and farm­ers.

"I ap­plaud se­cur­ing agri­cul­tural mar­ket ac­cess, but we should have got­ten that, in my view, two years ago," she said. "If we didn't leave TPP, we'd be com­pet­ing in those mar­kets right now."

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has fo­cused on re­viv­ing the agri­cul­ture-re­lated mar­ket ac­cess por­tions of TPP with a plan to ne­go­ti­at­ing a more de­tailed trade pact with Ja­pan in the fu­ture.

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