Ag Trade: Japan Agrees to Talks, Will Rice Get a Seat at the Table?

Rice harvest. ©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Last week President Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Abe issued a joint statement announcing that the two nations intend to enter negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement. According to the joint statement released by the White House, “The United States and Japan will enter into negotiations, following the completion of necessary domestic procedures, for a United States-Japan Trade Agreement on goods, as well as on other key areas including services, that can produce early achievements.”

Japan has long urged the Trump Administration to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade agreement among the United States, Japan, and 10 other countries that Trump withdrew from in 2017 as one of his first acts in office.

The joint statement lists important bedrock concerns of both sides: “Market access outcomes in motor vehicles will be designed to increase production and jobs in the United States. Japan’s commitments on market access for agricultural, forestry and fishery products made in previous trade agreements will “constitute the maximum level” of market access (for these products) in a trade agreement with the United States.”

“The joint statement is good news and we congratulate the Trump administration for obtaining agreement from Japan to negotiate bilaterally,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings. “We’ve called for a U.S.-Japan trade deal since the U.S. withdrew from the TPP. These talks are an opportunity to improve on the TPP deal, both in terms of quantity and for quality of access for U.S. rice and we will engage with U.S. officials on both fronts.”

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has told reporters that the two leaders would begin the process with discussions on uncontroversial items that might enable “an early harvest” in relaxing trade barriers.

“We know that rice falls into the ‘controversial’ category and we’ll need to work with this Administration to identify the best opportunities to improve market access for U.S. rice in Japan,” concluded Cummings.

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