WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The United States and Japan began the formal steps toward trade negations to provide new opportunities and markets.    

“Achieving high-standard trade agreements is a top priority for American agriculture, and the announcement of the beginning of negotiations for a U.S.-Japan trade agreement is an important step in that process,” said Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. “This is welcome news, since we know that export income is critical to the financial health of agriculture and is a key contributor to rural prosperity. Japan is an important customer for our agricultural products and we look forward to the great potential this breakthrough represents.”

A joint statement noted the agreement will be mutually beneficial:

• The U.S. market access outcomes in the motor vehicle sector will be designed to increase production and jobs in the U.S. in the motor vehicle industries; and

• For Japan, with regard to agricultural, forestry and fishery products, outcomes related to market access as reflected in Japan’s previous economic partnership agreements constitute maximum level.

According to the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), over the years, Japan has purchased more U.S. wheat than any other country, but also imports wheat from Canada and Australia, which are members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) along with Japan.

“Once ratified, this agreement will include a gradual reduction of Japan’s effective tariffs on milling wheat imported from TPP member countries,” the association noted. “While U.S. wheat farmers have excellent and longstanding relationships with Japanese millers, the higher tariffs on U.S. wheat would force them to purchase significantly more Canadian and Australian wheat within a few years of the new agreement’s implementation. That is a result no U.S. wheat grower can afford, and we are hopeful that the administration will address this problem as an early achievement in the negotiations.”

The USW said it appreciates the emphasis the negotiation has on free, fair and rules-based trade.

“These negotiations are a positive sign that the United States is again moving toward a comprehensive agreement with Japan and, hopefully, with other countries in the Pacific region and around the world,” the USW said. “That would benefit U.S. agriculture and the entire U.S. economy.”