Strengthening Relationships Through Trade

Mar 31, 2017 Issues: Agriculture, Trade, Ways & Means

Strong trade policy strengthens relationships around the world. Due to the efficiency of our agriculture producers, we have immense opportunity before us to boost our economy and improve diplomacy through trade.  

Pursuing an agreement with Japan, one of our allies and top trading partners, is a logical place to start.

The House Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, has jurisdiction over trade policy. On March 30, I worked with Rep. Ted Yoho, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Chairman on Asia and the Pacific, to introduce H. Res. 236, a resolution urging the Trump administration to start the process of establishing a trade agreement with Japan. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity, especially for U.S. agriculture producers.  

The results of U.S. inaction on trade are already evident. For example, Japan currently levies a nearly 40 percent tariff on U.S. beef, while Australia, which established its own agreement with Japan, only pays a 28 percent tariff on the same export. Under the Japan-Australia agreement, these tariffs on Australian beef will be phased down to 19 percent by 2031.

Knowing the impacts of these trade discrepancies firsthand, agriculture groups are ready to hit the ground running. Japan is our fourth-largest trading partner and the leading export market for U.S. beef and pork. National Pork Producers Council President Ken Maschhoff, an Illinois pork producer, said a trade agreement with Japan “would exponentially expand our exports and create American jobs. Without one, though, we could lose market share to competitors such as the European Union.” Nebraska Cattlemen President Troy Stowater added, “Nebraska currently has a record inventory of beef, and we know our red meat exports are in high demand overseas.”

Stowater continued, “When producers are able to trade, everyone is rewarded, from the pasture down to Main Street.” With 96 percent of the world’s consumers living outside our borders, all of whom need to eat, we must reduce trade barriers for our producers so they can continue to help feed the world.

Japan came to the table in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and was the only country to ratify the agreement. I was disappointed by President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from TPP. Even as our country now moves in a different direction on trade, we should not lose sight of our commitment to engage in the Asia-Pacific region.  

U.S. agriculture exports to Asia-Pacific countries have previously reached more than $90 billion and account for more than 70 percent of total U.S. agriculture exports to the world. Strengthening our trade ties with Japan could lead to broader U.S. economic engagement in the region.

Our resolution calls on the Trump administration to use the process established under the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, or TPA, to begin working on a trade deal with Japan. I supported passing TPA in 2015 because it empowered Congress to direct trade negotiations while giving other countries the confidence to bring their best offers to the table.  

President Trump has continually stressed his determination to strengthen U.S. trade negotiations, and I urge the administration to craft an agreement with Japan which is in our country’s best interest and opens doors for U.S. agriculture.

As a Ways and Means Committee member, I have had a few opportunities in recent weeks to meet with President Trump’s trade advisors. Overall, they have been receptive to Members’ concerns and ideas, and I have come away from these gatherings hopeful about the path forward.  

Other countries are not going to wait for us to lead on trade. Opening more markets and leveling the playing field for our agriculture producers is one of the best ways we can expand opportunity for all.