Bloomberg | 19 03 2015
Japan pork group proposes halving tariffs for TPP agreement
by Aya Takada
(Bloomberg) — Japan, the world’s largest pork importer, can accept a 50 percent reduction in import tariffs to help pave the way for the nation to reach an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a producer group said.
The Japan Pork Producers Association could tolerate a cut in duties to as low as 240 yen ($2) a kilogram from a maximum 482 yen at present, said Hisao Kuramoto, a managing director at the Tokyo-based organization.
The proposal comes as JA-Zenchu, the country’s biggest agricultural lobby, and pro-farmer members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party are urging the government to exempt pork along with beef, dairy, rice, wheat, sugar from tariff elimination in the TPP talks. Japan imported 45 percent of its pork last fiscal year through March 2014, purchasing 744,000 metric tons from countries including TPP members of the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Chile, according to data from the agriculture ministry.
“A tariff reduction exceeding the level would deal a fatal blow to Japanese pork producers, undermining the stability of supply to local consumers,” Kuramoto told reporters Thursday in Tokyo.
Hog futures in Chicago have slumped 43 percent in the past year. The contract for June settlement fell 0.9 percent to 75.125 cents a pound on Wednesday.
Abe has allowed negotiators to propose cutting pork tariffs to 50 yen a kilogram, according to Nobuhiro Suzuki, professor of global agricultural sciences at the University of Tokyo, who worked for the agriculture ministry for 14 years. Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s deputy chief negotiator, declined to confirm the figures after meeting his U.S. counterpart in Tokyo on March 3.
Japan’s Agriculture Ministry set a target on March 17 of raising domestic pork production to 1.31 million tons by the end of March 2026, from 917,000 tons last fiscal year.
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