(The Japan Agricultural News: February 16, 2016 – Top play)
A group of 67 U.S. members of Congress sent a letter to Japanese Ambassador to Japan Kenichiro Sasae on Feb. 11 in which they called for Japan to review the expansion of its business stabilization program for pork producers, which it is planning to introduce as part of measures to ease the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, a source close to the matter revealed. They claim that the expanded program will dilute the effects of a tariff reduction deal that the U.S. won during the trade negotiations and will affect whether the Congress will approve the trade agreement. The move appears to represent the discontent of the U.S. pork industry, which they lobby for, and will surely draw opposition within Japan.
Those who signed the letter include Pat Tiberi, a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees U.S. trade policies. They argued that Japan’s aid program “will artificially stimulate Japan’s domestic pork production and undermine the benefits that the U.S. gained during the negotiations.” Though they show understanding toward the program aimed at extending support to domestic farmers, they demand it be implemented in a way that does not affect production. They also noted that the program “will increase opposition in Congress.”
The Japanese government is planning to pass a law on the aid program so it can compensate pork farmers when their gross earnings fall below production costs. It will also increase the compensation ratio to 90%. It will submit to the current Diet session revisions to the Act Concerning the Stabilization of Price of Livestock Products, looking to expand the program upon the effectuation of the TPP.
It appears that the U.S. pork industry is concerned that the expansion of Japan’s subsidy program will cause a reduction in opportunities to export pork to Japan. Groups representing American pork producers are known for their high-handed approach. Since the conclusion of a basic agreement on the TPP last year, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have been conveying the industry’s discontent to the Japanese side.
Meanwhile, a Japanese government official stresses that there is no problem with the aid program, as it is “within the range of the subsidies sanctioned by the World Trade Organization.” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hiroshi Moriyama also noted at the agriculture, forestry and fisheries committees in the House of Representatives and Councillors in December: “If the U.S. government demands our domestic measures be changed, it means we will have to redo all the negotiations. Even if that is its intention, we will not accommodate such a request.”