The United States has designated Japan as a key market for its agricultural product exports, and it is growing increasingly impatient as tariffs [on its competitors’ products] drop further under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact and the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). In particular, the U.S. is wary of its declining competitiveness in beef and pork, two of its main products. The U.S. will strengthen its attack at the Japan-U.S. trade talks scheduled for April 15–16, and it looks like Japan may be pressed to quickly reach an agreement.
Almost all of Japan’s beef imports are from the U.S. and the TPP member countries. The tariff on the beef imported from Australia and other TPP participants dropped to 26.6% from April, and it will fall to 9% in the sixteenth year of the trade pact. The tariff on U.S. products will remain at 38.5% unless the U.S. reaches an agreement on tariffs.
If Japan’s frozen beef imports rise suddenly and safeguards are triggered, the tariff is increased to 50%. Australia and other U.S. rivals, however, are exempted from the safeguards based on provisions [in their trade agreements] so “[the safeguards] in effect are aimed squarely at the U.S.,” says a government source.
U.S. agricultural groups are known for strongly pressuring the administration through their lobbying. In particular, the meat industry is well-known for wielding great influence. For this reason, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is in charge of the negotiations with Japan, has indicated he intends to expedite negotiations. As he said at a congressional hearing, “We feel a great urgency over the negotiations with Japan as the TPP and Japan-EU EPA have taken force.”