U.S. seeks deeper farm tariff cuts by Japan than in TPP: Perdue

19, Oct. 2018

WASHINGTON, Kyodo - The United States will urge Japan to reduce tariffs on agricultural products beyond levels agreed to under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member regional free trade agreement, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated Thursday.

"We would expect certainly equal or better than the TPP deal," Perdue told reporters, in yet another push to boost America's farm exports ahead of the expected start of negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement on goods, or TAG, in mid-January.

The comment suggests President Donald Trump's administration will push for increased market access for beef, pork and other farm products in Japan during the upcoming negotiations involving U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan's economic revitalization minister.

Last month, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed the United States will refrain from imposing tariffs on automobile imports from Japan while negotiations are under way.

Perdue made the remark two weeks after he called for better terms in a trade deal with Japan than the FTA between Japan and the European Union.

"We believe that as good customers of theirs in their automotive industry, we should have our agricultural products accepted as easily and freely as we accept the automobiles," he said Thursday.

Perdue repeated his tough stance despite the understanding between Trump and Abe that Washington would not demand deeper farm tariff cuts than levels Japan has agreed in other trade pacts such as the TPP -- from which Trump withdrew the United State last year -- and the Japan-EU FTA.

On Tuesday, Lighthizer suggested the Trump administration will push Japan to "address both tariff and nontariff barriers" in sectors such as automobiles, agriculture and services, and to "achieve fairer, more balanced trade."

Similarly, other senior U.S. officials have thrown hardballs in the run-up to the start of the trade talks, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calling for the inclusion of a provision to prevent currency devaluations into a deal with Japan.

Vice President Mike Pence has described the prospective deal with Japan as a "free trade agreement," contradicting Japan's assertion that the accord sought by the two governments will not be as comprehensive as an FTA.

Meanwhile, Trump on Thursday praised Abe for working with him to "help balance out the one-sided Trade with Japan" and indicated expectations for more Japanese investment.

Citing a $1.6 billion joint venture between Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. in Alabama and a $170 million investment by Nissan Motor Co. in Tennessee, Trump said in a Twitter post, "These are some of the investments they are making in our Country - just the beginning!"

Figures that Trump posted in the tweet show that since he took office in January 2017, Japan is the top international investor in the United States, injecting $20 billion and creating 37,000 jobs. (Kyodo)