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Japan deal a much-needed trade win

The Trump administration’s recent achievement of a trade deal with Japan is a tremendously positive step for agriculture and rural America. It couldn’t have come too soon for our nation’s farmers and ranchers. The trade landscape has been marred by a trade war and, even before that, a very difficult farm economy. We commend the president’s trade negotiators for bringing home this much-needed trade win.

Japan has been a bright spot with growth in imports of farm goods. The benefit, however, has gone mostly to the European Union and other countries that already have trade agreements with Japan. The new U.S. – Japan trade deal announced in recent days will lower Japan’s import tariffs on key farm goods and help our farmers and ranchers benefit from Japan’s growing appetite.

Take dairy, for example. Japan’s global dairy imports are up 16 percent this year compared to 2018. The U.S. share of Japan’s dairy imports has stayed flat. A similar situation has played out with pork. Japan’s pork imports are up 12 percent, but pork imports from the U.S. have declined 1 percent since last year.

That is unacceptable. Thankfully, U.S. farmers and ranchers will soon have a level playing field in Japan, and I promise you we can compete with anyone in the world when the competition is fair. The tariff reductions in this agreement will position the U.S. on equal footing in Japan with countries that participate in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Even with an average tariff of more than 17 percent on agricultural imports (compared to our average of just under 5 percent), Japan is U.S. agriculture’s fourth-largest export market, after Canada, Mexico and the EU. That speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have in Japan. The great news is that our farmers and ranchers can send more of what they grow to consumers in Japan who clearly have a taste for high-quality meat and poultry, dairy products, wheat, rice and nuts from the U.S.

But this deal isn’t the end of negotiations. A more comprehensive trade agreement with Japan is coming. According to the Joint Statement signed by President Trump and Prime Minister Abe on Sept. 25, the United States and Japan will begin negotiations on many other trade related sectors four months after the most recent deal takes effect. Those negotiations will be especially important for our country’s farm and ranch families. Talks will cover everything from sanitary/phytosanitary provisions to biotechnology, geographic indications and enforcement mechanisms to make sure both sides live up to their word.

Of course, the trade war with China continues to loom over that trade landscape. That landscape looks much better as the U.S. reaches a deal with Japan and, soon, approves the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, diversifying the top markets for our agricultural products. We need more trade wins and fewer trade wars. Let’s hope this very positive step on the trade front encourages China to come to the negotiating table ready to make a deal of their own.

Zippy Duvall is a fourth-generation farmer from Georgia and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest agriculture organization in the U.S.

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