Business

Japan may pressure U.S. via Canada pork talks

Bloomberg

Japan, the world’s largest pork importer, may accelerate tariff talks with Canada to increase pressure on the United States to ease demands for cuts in agricultural protection, the nation’s biggest hog farmers group said.

Canada, the largest pork exporter after the United States and the European Union, has been in talks with Japan on a bilateral trade pact since November 2012. Japan agreed to almost halve its tariff on Australian pork under a deal reached earlier this month between the two governments. The four countries are among 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Canada is eager to boost pork sales to Japan and may seek treatment similar to what Japan gave to Australia,” Takashi Koiso, a director at Japan Pork Producers Association, said in an interview in Tokyo. Lawmakers from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party said the tariff reduction Japan offered to Australia is a “red line” for the TPP.

Economic minister Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman concluded talks on the TPP in Washington last week without striking a deal on some of the most contentious issues. Japan should agree that it won’t seek exemptions for goods including agricultural as it seeks to complete the deal, Froman said on April 3. President Barack Obama is expected to discuss trade and security with Abe in Tokyo on Thursday.

“We cannot accept tariff cuts beyond the level agreed to with Australia, or our industry will be undermined,” said Hisao Kuramoto, the pork association’s managing director.

Producing pork costs Japanese farmers more than double what counterparts in the United States and Canada pay, as Japan imports almost all of its feed grains. Corn and soybean futures in the Unites States, the largest supplier to Japan, have climbed 19 percent and 13 percent this year, respectively.

Unlike beef, pork in Japan is produced from breeds from overseas, making it difficult to differentiate the quality of the meat from imported products, Kuramoto said.

The nation is the world’s biggest corn importer and bought 6.4 million metric tons last year from the United States, the top exporter. Japan is also Asia’s second-largest soybean buyer.

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