By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
The NGFA and more than 30 food and agricultural associations expressed their strong support of the “phase-one” trade agreement between the U.S. and Japan in a Nov. 19 letter to the House Ways and Means Committee.
“A trade agreement between the United States and Japan is critical since Japan is already the United States’ fourth‐largest agricultural export market and our major competitors have received impactful tariff reductions under the Comprehensive and Progressive for Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CP-TPP),” the groups stated.
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, more than 90 percent of U.S. food and agricultural products exported to Japan will either be duty free or receive preferential tariff access once the phase-one agreement is implemented.
“Of critical importance is the expected implementation (of this agreement) in January 2020, providing…parity treatment with CP-TPP imports” from other countries, the groups wrote. “Upon implementation, U.S. exporters will reestablish their footing with CP-TPP competitors in most tariff reductions and establish deeper and new trade relationships in the Japanese marketplace.”
House Democrats have criticized the administration for pursuing a partial trade agreement without consulting Congress and some lawmakers considered delaying phase-one implementation.
“Over a year ago, USTR notified Congress of its intent to enter into this agreement but it would do so only based on consultation with Congress…consultation which did not occur,” said House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., during a Nov. 20 hearing. “This is despite the fact that the TPA [Trade Promotion Authority] requires USTR to notify and consult before, during and upon completion of trade agreements.”
Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., said the administration’s phase-one trade deal approach with Japan may influence congressional approval of TPA, or “fast track” authority, in the future. The fast track authority for brokering trade agreements allows the president to negotiate international agreements that Congress can approve or deny but cannot amend or filibuster. Under TPA, Congress retains the authority to review and decide whether any proposed U.S. trade agreement will be implemented. The president’s current TPA expires in 2021.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., highlighted the agricultural groups’ letter during the hearing. “There’s a lot of very, very good stuff for the American farmer [in the phase-one agreement],” he said. “This is a critical down payment toward a larger… agreement.”
In their letter, the agricultural organizations noted that the phase-one agreement is an important step toward the next phase of negotiations and an eventual comprehensive U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement that addresses non-tariff measures in the Japanese market, including sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
While the phase-one agreement does not need congressional ratification – because it was negotiated to resolve a U.S. national security trade complaint against Japan – any comprehensive deal will need approval from Congress. The lower house of the Japanese Diet already approved the phase-one agreement on Nov. 19, and it is expected to pass the upper house of parliament before Dec. 9.
“The U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement will benefit farmers, ranchers, and workers in the food and agriculture community,” NGFA and the other agricultural groups wrote to House lawmakers. “Accordingly, we respectfully urge your support for implementation of the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement in early 2020, as targeted.”