WASHINGTON – During the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum on Feb. 22 in Arlington, Virginia, US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Economist Erin Borror discussed the importance of Japan as a leading trade partner for the US beef and pork industries. USMEF expects 2018 exports to Japan to account for $2.1 billion for beef and $1.65 billion for pork.

Borror warned that the US is now competing more with Japan’s preferential trade agreements with Australia, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico and Chile. She said this situation will worsen unless the United States secures similar terms with Japan.

“Unless the US and Japan can quickly reach a trade agreement, lost opportunities will mount as Japanese companies seek more value-added, further processed products from suppliers such as the EU and Mexico,” Borror said. “Decisions that are being made today will transform the business and without clear indications that the US and Japan will reach an agreement, the US industry is likely to suffer permanent losses in market share and related investment. Japan is irreplaceable as a trading partner, given its demand for high-value chilled pork cuts, and it is seen as an increasingly important market for value-added pork. At a time when US companies are looking to produce more value-added and branded products, the industry cannot afford to miss these opportunities in Japan.”

Borror noted that beef and pork make up a significant portion of US agricultural exports to Japan. The projected $3.92 billion in combined red meat product exports represent about 30 percent of the $13 billion in total US ag exports to Japan. Meat is second behind grains and feeds exported to Japan.

The USMEF also said that exports to Japan are estimated to directly support more than 4 percent of the jobs in the meat packing and processing industry. Without a trade agreement, an annual cost of $5.2 billion in direct economic losses could occur to other businesses and industries in the top 15 meat packing and processing states. Over the next 10 years, an estimated 23,600 jobs outside the meat industry would be lost in those 15 states.