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U.S. agriculture secretary says Washington seeks deeper farm tariff cuts by Japan than those in TPP

Kyodo

The United States will urge Japan to reduce tariffs on agricultural products beyond levels agreed to under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member regional free trade agreement, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated Thursday.

“We would expect certainly equal or better than the TPP deal,” Perdue told reporters Thursday, in yet another bid to prioritize America’s farm exports ahead of the expected start of negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement on goods, or TAG, in mid-January.

The comment suggests President Donald Trump’s administration will push for increased market access for beef, pork and other farm products in Japan during the upcoming negotiations involving U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Economic Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

Last month, Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed the United States will refrain from imposing tariffs on automobile imports from Japan while negotiations are underway.

Perdue made the remark two weeks after he called for a trade deal between the two countries with better terms than that of the free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union.

“We believe that as good customers of theirs in their automotive industry, we should have our agricultural products accepted as easily and freely as we accept the automobiles,” he said.

Perdue repeated his tough stance despite the understanding between Trump and Abe that Washington would not demand deeper farm tariff cuts than levels Japan has agreed to in other trade pacts such as the TPP — from which Trump withdrew the United States last year — and the Japan-EU accord.

Later Friday, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga reiterated Tokyo’s policy that it will negotiate with the U.S. in a way that will be in Japan’s national interest.

On Tuesday, Lighthizer suggested the Trump administration will push Japan to “address both tariff and nontariff barriers” in sectors such as automobiles, agriculture and services, and to “achieve fairer, more balanced trade.”

Similarly, other senior U.S. officials have made strong remarks ahead of the start of the trade talks, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calling for the inclusion of a provision to prevent currency devaluations.

Vice President Mike Pence has described the prospective deal with Japan as a “free trade agreement,” contradicting Japan’s assertion that the accord sought by the two governments will not be as comprehensive as such an agreement.

Meanwhile, Trump on Thursday praised Abe for working with him to “help balance out the one-sided Trade with Japan” and indicated expectations for more Japanese investment.

Citing a $1.6 billion joint venture between Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. in Alabama and a $170 million investment by Nissan Motor Co. in Tennessee, Trump said in a Twitter post, “These are some of the investments they are making in our Country — just the beginning!”

Figures that Trump posted in the tweet show that since he took office in January 2017, Japan has been the top international investor in the United States, injecting $20 billion and creating 37,000 jobs.