( File photo )

(UPDATED, Aug. 27) The U.S. and Japan have announced an agreement in principle on a new agricultural trade deal.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump jointly announced the agreement in Biarritz, France, on Aug. 25.

Trump said Japan would buy big quantities of U.S. corn, with the deal expected to be signed around the time of the United General assembly in late September. 

The agreement will also benefit U.S. exports to Japan of beef, pork, wheat, dairy products, wine, ethanol, and a “variety of other products,” U.S. trade officials said.

U.S. and Japanese officials did not specifically mention fruit and vegetable commodities in their announcement.

“We still have some remaining work that has to be done at the working level, namely finalizing the wording of the trade agreement and also finalizing the content of the agreement itself,” Abe said in a news release.

Abe said pest issues in Japan have hurt production of some farm commodities, which opens the door for purchases of more U.S commodities.

“We believe that there is a need for us to implement emergency support measures for the Japanese private sector to have the early purchase of the American corn,” he said. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the agreement includes agriculture, industrial tariffs, and digital trade. 

He said Japan the third-largest agricultural market for the U.S., buying about $14 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products. 

The trade deal, he said, will open up markets to over $7 billion of those products.

“It will lead to substantial reductions in tariffs and non-tariff barriers across the board,” Lighthizer said.

Western Growers president and CEO Tom Nassif said in a statement that the group was pleased by potential reductions in trade barriers for fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.

“Tariff equity for U.S. fresh produce is one of our most important international trade priorities, with Japanese tariffs on American agricultural products reaching as high as 35% for some commodities,” Nassif said in the statement. “Of equal importance is the need for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) reforms, as Japan’s current SPS regulatory regime prohibits many high-quality U.S. fruits, vegetables and tree nuts from entering the Japanese market.”

Nassif said anticipated reductions in tariffs and SPS barriers will result in true market gains and much needed economic relief for growers who have been targets in trade wars.

“We applaud the efforts of President Trump, Prime Minister Abe and trade representatives from both countries to secure a mutually beneficial deal that will result in significant export opportunities for Western Growers members and the broader agricultural industry.”

A National Potato Council statement said preserving items negotiated under the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been a key objective.

“We believe (this) announcement indicates that the White House, the Office of the Trade Representative and the Department of Agriculture share that goal and are committed to making it a reality,” Jared Balcom, chairman of the NPC trade affairs committee and a farmer from Pasco, Wash., said in the statement.

Japan is the U.S. potato industry’s largest export market, with exports totaling $350 million in the past year. With better market access and more reasonable tariffs, potato exports could grow by another $150 million, according to the statement.

The California Walnut Commission also welcomed the news.

“Today’s announcement by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that a preliminary agreement includes agriculture is testament to the steadfast commitment of the administration in bringing fair, equitable and reciprocal trade to our producers,” the commission said in a statement.

Japan is the fourth-leading export market for the California walnut industry, accounting for $90 million in annual sales.

California Prune Board executive director, whose organization represents 800 growers and 40% of the world’s prune crop, said in a news release the agreement will enable California prunes and prune juice to compete more effectively in Japan, an important export market.


 

 
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