Japan’s tariff increases on US beef will harm relations, says USDA chief

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 July, 2017, 3:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 July, 2017, 3:17am

US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue warned on Friday that Japan’s planned imposition of emergency tariffs on frozen beef from the United States and other countries “would harm our important bilateral trade relationship with Japan.”

“I am concerned that an increase in Japan’s tariff on frozen beef imports will impede US beef sales and is likely to increase the United States’ overall trade deficit with Japan,” Perdue said in a statement.

Perdue was referring to a tariff increase to 50 per cent from 38.5 per cent starting in August on frozen beef imports from countries that do not have a free trade agreement with Japan, a measure Japanese officials said is in response to a recent surge in imports.

“This would harm our important bilateral trade relationship with Japan on agricultural products,” he said.

US exports of beef and beef products to Japan totaled US$1.5 billion last year, making it the United States’ top market, according to the US Agriculture Department.

Perdue said he has asked the Japanese government “directly and clearly” to “make every effort” to address Washington’s concern about the so-called safeguard tariffs that Tokyo will introduce for the period from August 1 to March 31.

The measure does not affect Australia, a major beef exporter that has an FTA with Japan.

Soon after his inauguration in January, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pending regional FTA that, once implemented with US participation, would have reduced Japan’s 38.5 per cent tariff on fresh and frozen beef cuts to 9 per cent over 16 years.

The Trump administration could take up the emergency tariffs during the second round of a high-level economic dialogue the Japanese and US governments are planning to hold in October in Washington.

With Trump criticising Tokyo’s hefty trade surplus with Washington, his administration may push Japan to drop the safeguard tariffs and call for the start of negotiations for a bilateral FTA.

The economic dialogue involves Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and US Vice President Mike Pence, two top officials who launched it during their meeting in April in Tokyo.

Japan has decided to impose emergency tariffs after frozen beef imports reached 89,253 tonnes in the April-to-June quarter, up 17.1 per cent from a year earlier.

Under World Trade Organisation rules, Japan can introduce safeguard tariffs when imports grow more than 17 per cent in a quarter on a year-on-year basis.