Last week the Japanese Parliament approved a trade agreement that will significantly lower import tariffs on U.S. beef and pork, clearing the way for the agreement to be implemented at the beginning of 2020. U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO Dan Halstrom says he thinks the agreement is probably the biggest positive thing that's hit agriculture in 2019.
"This is a big deal in terms of getting us on a level playing field with our international competition. On the beef side, we're at a 12-and-a-half, 13% duty disadvantage to the Australians, to the Canadians, etc., and on the pork side we're also at a disadvantage on duty with seasoned ground pork, processed pork products and some other items as well," Halstrom says. "This agreement will get us on a level playing field where we can compete and we can excel in those segments that we're really focused on, which is primarily the chilled beef programs and the chilled pork programs and also the processed pork that I mentioned earlier. Last year, Japan accounted for $3.7 billion in export sales of beef and pork combined and we see the prospects in the next few years of being able to grow that closer to $5 billion."
Halstrom praises leaders on both sides for getting the deal completed in a timely fashion.
"For USMEF and the agricultural industry in general, we really need to thank USTR and USDA because a lot of time and resources have gone into working on this deal with Japan," Halstrom says. "This is our largest value market by far for both beef and pork, and the administration really has been working on behalf of agriculture in general and the beef and pork producers in particular. Prime Minister Abe of Japan has been very, very supportive of agricultural trade and trade in general with the U.S. so without a doubt, we need to capitalize on this opportunity when we have a very trade-friendly administration in the Japan government."