A coalition of food and agricultural organizations has urged the Obama administration to work with Japan to smooth the way for that country’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), according to a press release from the National Pork Producers Council.

In a letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the coalition said including Japan in the trade talks would generate enormous interest and support in U.S. agriculture. In addition to NPPC, the coalition also includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Feed Industry Association, the American Meat Institute and Smithfield Foods, among others.

The TPP is a multilateral trade agreement which currently includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Japan already has free trade agreements with six of the nine TPP countries.

Japan is seeking to balance its trade between the United States and China in its need to boost ties with Asia, whose economic potential is essential for Japan's future growth. In 2009, China replaced the United States to become Japan's biggest trading partner.

In 2010, the United States exported $1.65 billion of pork to Japan which is the No. 1 market for the U.S. pork industry. In the first nine months of 2011, the United States has shipped $1.44 billion in pork exports. “(U.S.) pork producers would gain tremendous market opportunities with Japan as part of the TPP,” according to NPPC President Doug Wolf, a pork producer from Lancaster, Wis.

Japan’s economy is second only to China’s in the region, and it is the fourth largest agricultural export market for the United States, despite the fact that it maintains substantial import barriers. Even with the barriers, U.S. exports to Japan in 2010 were nearly $12 billion.

The coalition warned that Japan likely would enter free trade talks with the European Union in 2012 and with other countries if its TPP bid is rejected. “The opportunity to include Japan in the TPP negotiations must be seized,” according to the coalition letter. “It is an opportunity that may not present itself again.”

Read the full letter.  

Source: NPPC