During this era of polarized politics, sometimes good news can fall through the cracks. Such was the case recently, when the United States and Japan completed “Phase One” of a trade agreement.
This agreement is huge for American agriculture, and Nebraska agriculture in particular. Currently, Japan is Nebraska’s number one trade market for beef, pork, egg and wheat exports. These accomplishments have come despite existing Japanese tariffs and trade barriers on U.S. agriculture products.
Nebraskans are proud of our long history of agriculture and the products we export. Nebraska beef is world famous and sought after. In fact, the top three cattle producing counties in the nation (Cherry, Custer, and Holt Counties) are in the Third District of Nebraska. In 2018 alone, $412.1 million of Nebraska beef was exported to Japan.
We had previously received good news in May when Japan lifted age restrictions on imported U.S. beef, eliminating a barrier which had been in place since 2003. This was a positive step forward, but more needed to be done. As the Co-chair of the U.S. Japan Caucus, I have long advocated for a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. and Japan, including introducing a resolution in the House calling for one in 2017. The reduction of trade barriers between the U.S. and Japan would benefit producers and consumers.
The administration and Japan have been working toward a trade agreement for some time. On September 25, President Trump and Prime Minister Abe announced they had signed a limited trade deal bringing Japanese tariff rates on U.S. agriculture in line with our competitors, along with similar tariff reductions on digital and industrial products. The tariff changes are expected to take effect by the first of the year, so the benefits will be seen sooner rather than later.
As the third largest economy in the world with 127 million people living inside its borders, Japan is critical to expanding U.S. trade. It is estimated this trade agreement will reduce tariffs on an additional $7.2 billion, opening the door for U.S. agriculture products and increasing market access for producers.
The next step would be to sign a comprehensive deal with Japan. A comprehensive agreement, ratified by Congress, would provide certainty, which is good for both countries. I look forward to the future of U.S.-Japan relations and seeing the continued success of a strong trading partnership.