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On to Phase Two with Japan

September 21, 2020

Expanding trade opportunities by opening more markets for U.S. ag producers, manufacturers, and service providers is one of the best ways to strengthen our economy and provide stability for producers and consumers. Finding new trading partners while strengthening existing relationships with allies like Japan, is of the utmost importance. The market access we gained in Phase One of the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, which President Trump signed last year, was significant and we should not squander the opportunity to complete the deal. Now is the time to prioritize Phase Two of the agreement.

I have long been an advocate for furthering our trade relationship with Japan and the potential benefits for producers and consumers. I introduced a resolution in the House calling for a bilateral trade agreement in 2017 and have encouraged the administration’s efforts in the Ways and Means Committee, which holds jurisdiction over trade. Last year, I became co-chair of the U.S.-Japan Caucus and it has given me an even greater opportunity to advocate directly for U.S.-Japan trade to the Japanese ambassador. For years, tariffs and non-tariff barriers stood in the way of trade between the U.S. and Japan. After much negotiation, Phase One – which reduced tariffs on an estimated 90 percent of food and agriculture products exported to Japan – was a great accomplishment. However, there is much more to be done.

Phase Two negotiations will most likely include conversations on U.S. automobiles and parts, insurance services, and possibly pharmaceuticals. These American-made products currently face both tariffs and non-tariff barriers. For example, the U.S. imports $40 billion in automobiles from Japan, but due to strict import regulations in Japan, only $2.4 billion of American-made automobiles are exported to Japan. Striking down these obstacles on these key areas would provide a great boost to important American industries, and certainly strengthen ties between our respective countries.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed progress on negotiations for Phase Two, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has recently expressed optimism for the reignition of negotiations. Japan just elected a new Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga. As part of his platform, Prime Minister Suga has emphasized strengthening existing ties with the United States. What better way to do that than to get Phase Two off the ground.

President Trump has made trade a focal point of his presidency. Through his efforts, we have secured agreements with Canada, Mexico, China, South Korea, and Japan. President Trump and Prime Minister Abe’s great relationship had no small part in securing Phase One of the U.S.-Japan Agreement, and I have high hopes for the new Prime Minister. For my part, I will continue to advocate for reducing tariffs and trade barriers and expanding new markets for Nebraska products. Securing Phase Two of the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement would be a big step in the right direction.