TOKYO – Japan’s parliament approved on Wednesday a new trade agreement with the United States that cuts tariffs on agricultural and industrial products, paving the way for its entry into force in early 2020.
The agreement, signed off in September by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump, establishes that Japan will reduce or eliminate tariffs on US agricultural products worth $7.2 billion, including a gradual reduction of the tariff on American beef from 38.5 percent to 9 percent.
Other products, such as pork, wine and cheese, will also have greater access to the Japanese market, putting the US on an equal footing with the signatory countries of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11), including Canada and Australia.
Trump has promoted the deal as a way to reduce his country’s massive trade deficit with Japan and to placate American farmers, who were at a disadvantage compared to their international competitors following Washington’s decision to abandon the TPP-11 unilaterally.
The bilateral trade agreement has come in for criticism from opposition lawmakers (Abe’s ruling party has a majority in both chambers) as the pact does not provide for the elimination of the 2.5 percent US tariff on Japanese cars, which the original trade agreement included.
The countries have agreed that – once the trade pact is in force – they will continue negotiations in the subsequent four months with the aim of addressing other sectors not included in the current pact along with the tariffs on vehicles made in Japan.
Following the approval of the pact by the upper house of the Japanese Diet (parliament) and the White House assertion’s that it does not need congressional approval on the agreement, internal procedures in both countries have been effectively completed, so the agreement is expected to come into effect as early as Jan. 1, 2020.