USTR announces intent to negotiate with Japan, EU and UK | TSLN.com

USTR announces intent to negotiate with Japan, EU and UK

Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Tuesday that, "at the direction of the president," he has notified Congress that he will negotiate separate trade agreements with Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom.

But the National Pork Producers Council was cautious in its expectations about the negotiations.

"Under President Trump's leadership, we will continue to expand U.S. trade and investment by negotiating trade agreements with Japan, the EU and the United Kingdom," Lighthizer said. "Today's announcement is an important milestone in that process. We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses."

In officially notifying Congress, Lighthizer said he is following the procedures set out in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 – often referred to as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – which requires ongoing consultations with Congress. These consultations ensure that USTR develops negotiating positions with the benefit of Congress' views. USTR will also publish notices in the Federal Register requesting the public's input on the direction, focus and content of the trade negotiations.

In accordance with TPA, USTR will publish objectives for the negotiations at least 30 days before formal trade negotiations begin.

Washington Trade Daily noted that the United States and the U.K. cannot begin formal trade negotiations until Britain officially leaves the EU on March 29, 2019.

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"The administration will be ready to launch right into those negotiations at the appropriate time because it is already laying the groundwork through the U.S.-U.K. Trade and Investment Working Group," Lighthizer said, according to WTD.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said, "I welcome the administration's shift to focus on additional markets where there are barriers to U.S. exports and opportunities for made-in-America manufactured goods, agricultural products and services.

"However, the administration must take the time to tackle trade barriers comprehensively, including using this opportunity to set a high bar in areas like labor rights, environmental protection and digital trade, in ways that actually benefit American workers and businesses. A quick, partial deal that only addresses some problems risks leaving opportunities for Americans behind. I look forward to consulting intensively with Oregonians, the public and the administration as it shapes its negotiating objectives and the scope of these proposed talks."

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) said, "Each of these countries offers abundant opportunities for increased U.S. dairy exports."

IDFA said Japan is U.S. dairy's fourth-largest market, representing sales of more than $290 million last year. The U.K. imports $3.4 billion worth of dairy, but imports from the United States represent only 0.25% of that value.

The EU has the potential to be a large export market for the United States. In 2017, the EU exported nearly $1.5 billion in dairy products to the United States, but U.S. companies exported only $116 million in dairy products to the EU.

"As we enter into these negotiations, it will be important for our negotiators to reduce existing tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. exports in these key markets," IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes said. "The EU, for example, seeks to monopolize the use of certain cheese and other food names that the United States and many other countries regard as generic by improperly using geographical indications. These non-tariff barriers effectively prevent U.S. cheesemakers from accessing growing markets in other countries."

National Pork Producers Council President Jim Heimerl, an Ohio producer, said, "Producers are hurting because of retaliatory tariffs on pork, which were prompted by the administration's efforts to realign U.S. trade policy. But producers have been patient, and now that patience is starting to pay off, particularly if we get a trade deal with Japan."

"NPPC will not support a deal with the U.K. unless it agrees to equivalence, meaning that all USDA-approved pork and pork products must be eligible for export to the U.K. without additional requirements," Heimerl said.

And while the organization is open to trade negotiations with the U.K., it is skeptical about EU intentions, NPPC said.

"The EU has played the United States like a drum in the past," said Heimerl. "This must stop. We expect the Trump administration to require the EU to eliminate all tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. pork so we can export with no additional requirements."

While the trade news is good for U.S. pork producers, NPPC is continuing to press the Trump administration to resolve trade disputes with China and Mexico, including dropping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the latter. Both countries imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. pork in response to the U.S. metals duties, NPPC noted.

–The Hagstrom Report