Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue last week came to new terms and conditions to give US beef full access to Japan, over 15 years after Japan banned US beef following the detection of mad cow disease. The hope is that this agreement sets the stage for a larger trade deal. Chief Ag Negotiator Gregg Doud says Japan is a top priority for the US Trade Representative’s office. He likened it to the old story about two men being chased by a bear.
“You don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the other guy, right? Right now, the other guy is Canada, and Australia, and even the E.U., that have had deals that have kicked in with Japan. They’re clear over the hill and we’ve got to figure out a way to get back even with them as quickly as we possibly can.”
USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney said he was recently in Japan and believes the relationship, overall, is a good one.
“Sure, they chided us for stepping out of TPP, but it was warm and friendly, much like you’d kid with a friend or a neighbor. The second thing is they know, and love, and respect the quality, the quantity, and the safety of our product. There is not a question about what they get from the US and that goes a long way. Third, I’ll say that many of the buyers over there are hanging with us. They are paying above the tariff to keep bringing in US product.”
Many farmers have expressed concern that these trade disputes are leading other countries to believe that the US is an unreliable trading partner. I asked McKinney if those concerns arise during his conversations with Japan or any other country that he’s dealing with.
“I open every visit with every government official reminding them that I view trade as a two-way street. I work hard to address their issues as I hope they’re working hard on mine. So, I’m not hearing that at all. It’s in the back of my mind. It might be in the back of their mind. I want to ward it off, but I’m not hearing it, no.”
USDA estimates that the expanded access could increase U.S. beef and beef product exports to Japan by up to $200 million annually.