WASHINGTON – The meat and poultry industry has turned its focus to trade with Japan while the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) awaits ratification by Congress.

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) submitted comments to the Office of the US Trade Representative detailing the industry’s negotiating objectives for a potential US-Japan trade agreement. Japan is the largest export market for US beef and largest value market for US pork.

Any agreement should give US beef exports the same tariff benefits granted to US competitors under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which enters into force on Dec. 30. Under the agreement, Japan’s tariffs on beef imports will decline to 9 percent in year 16 of the deal from 38.5 percent.

Trade ministers of 11 countries signed the trade pact in March after President Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January 2017. The 11 remaining countries continued negotiations. After two days of negotiations in Tokyo, the countries eventually reached consensus on several remaining core elements of the agreement on Jan. 23. Members of the CPTPP include Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Another priority of trade negotiations should include phasing out import tariffs on US pork.

In its comments to the USTR, NAMI encouraged negotiators to reduce and ultimately end tariffs on US meat byproducts such as hides, skins and leather products.

NAMI also expressed support for inclusion of strong sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures that would prevent “…non-scientific and unduly burdensome” import regulations from limiting US meat and poultry exports to Japan.

“The US-Japan Trade Agreement stands to be a boon for the US meat, poultry and animal products industry and will be integral to future growth,” wrote Bill Westman, NAMI senior vice president of International Affairs. “The agreement will provide economic benefits to the producers, processors and workers in the industry by making US meat and poultry products more competitive in one of the most important markets in the Pacific region.”