Fast Trade Agreement with Japan Essential for U.S. Pork Producers

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By Maria Zieba, NPPC
U.S. pork producers are suffering significant financial harm from punitive tariffs levied on U.S. pork exports by China and Mexico in retaliation for U.S. actions on steel and aluminum and China’s trade practices. But an even bigger trade problem looms large. Key global competitors have negotiated and implemented trade agreements with Japan and the U.S. already is losing market share in its most important export market.

Japan is the largest value market and second largest volume market for U.S. pork exports. Last year, the U.S. exported $1.6 billion in sales of pork to the country. Since 1993, U.S. pork sales to Japan have more than quadrupled to more than 394,301 metric tons last year. With a population of nearly 127 million people and as the third-largest economy in the world, the Japanese market is critical to U.S. pork producers. 

The National Pork Producers Council was arguably the most aggressive and engaged private sector group during the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. NPPC’s efforts paid off, as Japan and the other TPP nations agreed to a fantastic package on pork. 

However, the great irony is that U.S. pork producers now are standing on the sidelines watching as their competitors in Canada, Chile, the EU and Mexico get the benefit of the deal on pork that the U. S. negotiated. That is because the U.S. pork industry’s biggest competitors have recently entered into trade agreements with Japan, which includes the European Union-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Due to these other trade agreements, the U.S. is already losing sales to Japan—12% losses in value this year according to the latest figures--and those losses will only continue if a trade agreement between the two nations is not expeditiously negotiated and implemented.

NPPC anticipated these ramifications. Less than a month after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from TPP, the org sprang into action in January 2017, becoming the first group to call for the U.S. to expeditiously negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Japan. Pork producers have been lobbying hard since that time for bilateral trade negotiations with Japan. Thankfully, their efforts are starting to get traction.

In September 2018, the U.S. and Japan agreed to begin trade negotiations. The Japanese have made it clear that they are willing to extend to the U.S. the concessions on pork and other products that were negotiated in the TPP. Indeed, the Japanese legislature voted to approve the TPP deal with the U.S., so politically the Japanese offer makes perfect sense. 

The negotiations formally commenced in Spring 2019 and already there are positive signs. In late April, President Trump said agriculture would be discussed “very strongly” as part of a U.S.-Japan trade deal. The president is slated to visit Japan at the end of this month; a completed deal can’t come soon enough. 

According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the U.S. will continue to hemorrhage away market share in pork unless the U.S. moves quickly to negotiate and implement a deal with Japan. The same holds true for other U.S. food and agriculture exports to Japan, such as beef, dairy, wine and wheat. Time is of the essence. NPPC will continue to push hard for an expedited negotiation.

As director of international affairs, Maria Zieba works on NPPC’s trade policy program focusing on opening, maintaining and increasing market access for U.S. pork. Prior to joining NPPC, Zieba was a trade policy manager for the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Previously, she worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, managing capacity building projects aimed at increasing U.S. agricultural exports to emerging markets. Zieba holds a master’s degree in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason University. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Riverside with a double major in Political Science-International Affairs and Spanish. She is fluent in three languages and has lived in Washington, D.C., Southern California, Argentina and Brazil.

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