A coalition of food and agricultural organizations and companies on Tuesday urged the United States and other countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to quickly welcome Japan into talks on the sweeping trade deal.
Japan recently announced its intention to join the TPP negotiations, which currently include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The latest round of talks were held in mid-March in Singapore and did not include Japan. The next round, slated for Peru in May, may also not include Japan.
"If Japan formally announces its interest to join the TPP, what will happen is that Japan will have to enter into bilateral consultations with TPP parties, individually and as a group," Ng Bee Kim, Singapore's chief negotiator, explained to reporters earlier this month. "Entry to the TPP must be supported by a consensus. We are now in round 16, in a very advanced stage of negotiation, so the TPP parties will also want to be reassured that the entry of new members will continue to keep up with the good momentum that they have achieved so far."
In a letter sent Tuesday to President Obama, the coalition of 75 food and agricultural organizations and companies said the inclusion of Japan in the trade talks would generate enormous interest and support in U.S. agriculture.
“The addition of Japan to the negotiations will exponentially increase the importance of the TPP to U.S. farmers and ranchers, processors and exporters as well as other sectors of the U.S. economy,” said the coalition. ‘Furthermore, it will spur interest in the TPP among other countries in Asia and Latin America.”
Allowing Japan to join the talks also will send a strong signal to other nations that efforts to negotiate more open and transparent regional trading arrangements will continue, even as multilateral efforts to do so are stymied, the organizations said.
Japan’s economy is second only to China’s in the region, and it is fourth largest agricultural export market for the United States, despite maintaining substantial import barriers. U.S. food and agricultural exports to Japan in 2012 totaled $13.5 billion. Aside from Canada and Mexico, the next most important agricultural export market among the parties to the TPP is Vietnam, ranking 16th overall and totaling $1.7 billion.
“Japan’s entry into the TPP as a full partner greatly enhances the overall value of this momentous regional free trade agreement,” the coalition said. - Eric Johnson