U.S. meat group chief seeks early trade talks with Japan

Jiji Press

Philip Seng

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Philip Seng, president of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, has called for an early start of Japan-U.S. trade negotiations, including on the possible conclusion of a bilateral free trade agreement.

Seng, who took the post in 1990 and has played a central role in opening Japan’s beef market to U.S. produce, indicated that trade talks between the two countries should be initiated as soon as the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump is ready.

“I do like the idea of trying to have deadlines” to accelerate such negotiations, Seng said in an interview on Tuesday.

Japan’s tariffs on beef imported from Australia, a U.S. rival, are being reduced in stages under their bilateral economic partnership agreement, which went into force in January 2015. The European Union is also trying to conclude an EPA with Japan at an early date.

Seng said what USMEF wants is an “expeditious involvement” by the Japanese and U.S. governments in trade talks. Given the current situations in Japan and Australia, “we are at a disadvantage,” he said. “Once Japan signs an agreement [EPA] with Europe, U.S. pork will be at a disadvantage,” he added.

Currently, Japan imposes 38.5 percent tariffs on U.S. beef. Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which the United States has withdrawn, the tariff rate was set to be cut to 9 percent in the 16th year of its effectuation.

Separately, Seng suggested at a news conference on Tuesday that his organization may ask the U.S. government to seek a pact that is more beneficial to the country than the TPP once trade negotiations with Japan start. USMEF said the same day that it targets exports of 267,400 tons of U.S. beef to Japan this year, up 12 percent from the previous year, and 365,000 tons of U.S. pork, up 3 percent.Speech

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