Farm groups are lauding a new agricultural trade deal the administration has reached with Japan.
During the 2016 election President Donald Trump campaigned against trade deals that he said put U.S. producers at a disadvantage. Once elected he made good on his promise to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was the pact regulating trade among 12 Pacific Rim nations.
Trump said he would replace TPP with bilateral trade deals.
The new deal is good news for U.S. farmers and ranchers. Japan represents a $14 billion market for U.S. farm products. Without this deal, American agriculture would face significantly higher tariffs than competitors that are a part of the 11-party successor agreement to TPP.
According to the deal, Japan will reduce tariffs on products valued at $2.9 billion in stages. Among the products benefiting from this enhanced access will be fresh and frozen beef and pork.
Tariffs will be eliminated immediately on more than $1.3 billion of U.S. farm products including, for example, almonds, blueberries, cranberries, walnuts, sweet corn, grain sorghum, food supplements, broccoli and prunes.
Other products valued at $3 billion will benefit from staged tariff elimination. This group of products includes, for example, wine, cheese and whey, ethanol, frozen poultry, processed pork, fresh cherries, beef offal, frozen potatoes, oranges, egg products and tomato paste.
This deal with Japan underscores two obvious points that make bilateral agreements possible. Our trading partners want our goods. The Japanese, for example, have sought out wheat produced in the Pacific Northwest. More importantly, our partners are anxious to get their goods into the United States, the largest economy in the world.
While we don’t pretend to understand the Trump negotiating strategy, and aren’t sure there is a strategy, new trade deals are being hammered out.
The administration says its deal with Japan doesn’t substantially change U.S. law, so it doesn’t require congressional approval.
That’s good news, if it’s true. Congress hasn’t done anything to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement announced a year ago.
While it’s clear other countries want our business, it’s not clear Congress is interested in giving it to them.