Tag Archives: Japan

The U.S. dairy industry pushed President Donald Trump’s administration on Thursday to ensure increased access to the Japanese market, saying the United States lags behind other farming nations that have tariff-cutting agreements with Japan.

In a hearing on bilateral trade negotiations that Washington and Tokyo are set to start as early as in mid-January, a labor union representing American automobile manufacturing employees meanwhile urged the administration to maintain U.S. tariffs on Japanese cars, parts and trucks to curb increases in imports.

Speaking at the United States International Trade Commission hearing, Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president of trade policy at the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation, said upcoming talks for a bilateral trade agreement should achieve “a high level of market access” in Japan.

Castaneda said that in terms of access to the world’s third-largest economy, the United States is behind Australia — which already has a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan — as well as the 11 members of a Pacific FTA and the European Union, a 28-nation bloc that has signed an FTA with Japan.

“America is already behind and we ask the administration to act soon,” he said.

In a written testimony, the council and federation effectively pushed Japan to reduce tariffs on dairy products beyond levels agreed to under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11-nation FTA that will enter into force on Dec. 30, and the Japan-EU FTA.

The organizations urged the administration to use the trade talks with Japan to secure “a better outcome” than that contained in the CPTPP or in the Japan-EU FTA “for each tariff line.”

Japan and the European Union are speeding up domestic procedures for the early enforcement of their FTA.

“Japan’s market for imported dairy products is tightly restricted in most product areas,” the testimony said. “In addition to tariffs, Japan maintains a complex quota system for several of its dairy products which it uses to allocate its in-quota quantities according to designated uses.”

Josh Nassar, legislative director for the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America International Union — also known as the United Automobile Workers, or UAW — accused Japan of having a “closed market” for American automobiles.

The United States should maintain tariffs on Japanese cars, parts and trucks “until their market is truly open to actually see big increases in allowing imports,” he said.

While acknowledging Japan imposes no tariffs on foreign cars, Nassar argued the Japanese government has set up “a web of closed systems” such as dealerships that make it difficult for foreign automakers to have successful sales in Japan.

Nassar also claimed Japan has not been hesitant about manipulating its currency to give its exports an unfair trade advantage.

Aside from Thursday’s hearing, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is scheduled to hold a separate hearing for industries on Monday regarding bilateral trade agreement talks with Japan.

On Nov. 28, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) launched U.S. lamb’s return to the Japanese market with an educational seminar and tasting event that drew more than 200 chefs, importers, purveyors, trade media and other key food industry professionals to The Strings hotel in Tokyo.

Following the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States in December 2003, Japan was closed to U.S. lamb for nearly 15 years before reopening in July of this year. The USMEF event was designed to showcase the unique flavor profile and other positive attributes of U.S. lamb, introduce menu concepts featuring a variety of lamb cuts and connect suppliers with prospective customers.

“The turnout at the seminar was extremely impressive, and the enthusiasm was even more so,” said Greg Ahart, vice president of sales for Superior Farms. Ahart also serves on the American Lamb Board and the USMEF Executive Committee. “After a 15-year absence from the marketplace, seeing the amount of excitement and interest that was present in the room – both from the educational side, as well as when we proceeded to the presentation of products and the tasting – this event was truly something to be part of. I was completely blown away by the volume and genuineness of the interest expressed.”

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said U.S. lamb now has a long-awaited opportunity to capitalize on Japan’s strong demand for high-quality red meat products.

“The seminar and tasting confirmed that there is a lot of enthusiasm for the reentry of U.S. lamb into Japan,” Halstrom said. “We are in the midst of a ‘niku boom’ (meat boom) in Japan and there are many developing and emerging concepts, especially in the foodservice sector, for which high-quality U.S. lamb is a natural option.”

Ahart noted that the strong reputation and following U.S. pork and beef have established in Japan will provide positive momentum for U.S. lamb.

“The credibility that U.S. pork and beef have in this marketplace is very beneficial as we look at reintroducing lamb,” he explained. “Some of the more senior buyers in Japan have experience with U.S. lamb from before the market closure. But for the younger crowd at this event, which doesn’t have that historical knowledge, the reputation of the other two high-quality proteins really helps generate interest in American lamb.”

USMEF-Japan Director Takemichi Yamashoji also emphasized the need to attract younger customers, who will be a major focus of future USMEF tastings and promotions.

“There is an entire generation of Japanese consumers who have not tasted U.S. lamb,” he said. “USMEF wants to reach younger Japanese consumers and make them regular customers, so that U.S. lamb will be top-of-mind when they go out for fine dining.”

In addition to dishes that will be featured at high-end hotels and restaurants, Ahart added that the seminar was also an excellent venue for showcasing other lamb cuts that could gain traction in Japan.

“Lamb shanks and Denver ribs, which are comparable to short ribs, are examples of items that will have some applicability and interest in Japan as we build on the enthusiasm from the seminar,” Ahart said.

Japan’s imports of lamb and sheep meat are trending higher. Through October, imports in 2018 totaled 21,151 metric tons (up 11 percent from a year ago) valued at $171.2 million (up 20 percent and already a full-year record). Australian lamb currently holds about 60 percent market share, with New Zealand lamb capturing nearly 40 percent. Lamb and sheep meat enter Japan at zero duty.

A Japan-based ready-to-eat rice maker formally launched today its ‘Rice-to-Go’ product intended mainly for use in emergency and disaster situations in the Philippines.

Kiyosada Egawa, chairman of Biotech Japan Corp., said at the product unveiling event that he “would like to share our technology from Japan that has the ability to make rice keep its acceptable quality for a prolonged period of time.”

He noted that every year, the Philippines is struck by typhoons, “and each time the media shows us hundreds of people going hungry because food and fuel are either unavailable or scarce.”

To be sold as early as next year in 200-gram packs at a retail price of 35 pesos each (nearly $0.70), with a shelf-life of a year, Egawa said the Rice-to-Go, made from locally grown and processed rice, is “the perfect response to such emergencies,”

It is also ideal for those who have no time to cook at home, those who cannot or forget to bring their packed meals at work or in school, those who go hiking or camping, and others who are simply on-the-go, he added.

Egawa said his company is especially targeting the governmental and nongovernmental entities engaged in disaster relief.

Its local subsidiary, Biotech JP Corp., was established in Batangas province, south of Manila, in April 2015, and already sells three other products packed, cooked rice products.

Unlike the company’s Insta Rice, a regular, precooked rice that needs to be microwaved, Rice-to-Go does not have to be reheated.

Braddy Agarma, an officer from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, recognized the need for ready-to-eat food.

“Currently, we are looking for technologies available in the market, and Biotech is very good. You don’t need to cook anymore, and the flavor of the rice is good. The rice is not hard and not dry,” he said.

A highly contagious African swine fever virus has been detected in the luggage of a traveler from Shanghai at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, the farm ministry said Friday.

Pork filled dumplings brought by the traveler on Oct. 14 have tested positive for the virus, becoming the second case of the virus being brought to Japan from overseas.

The disease was reported in China in August, while no domestic infections in Japan have been reported so far.

African swine fever is regarded as more lethal than conventional swine fever, also known as hog cholera, and there is no effective vaccine to protect pigs from the deadly disease.

According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the dumplings were homemade and uncooked. Both African and classical swine fevers pose no direct threat to human health.

In September, hog cholera infection was confirmed among domestic pigs in Japan for the first time in 26 years, in the central Japan city of Gifu.

It is unlikely that food infected with the African swine fever virus will cause an outbreak unless pigs are fed with infected food.

Japanese farmers expressed concern Wednesday about an expected influx of imports and other effects of a trans-Pacific free trade agreement led by Japan that is set to enter into force on Dec. 30.

Australia said earlier in the day it has become the sixth nation to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, fulfilling the requirements for the 11-member tariff-cutting framework to take effect.

Reaching the required number of states to have ratified the deal occurred “rather fast,” said 60-year-old Tatsumi Dejima, who runs a farm in the village of Sarabetsu in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island prefecture known for producing half of Japan’s raw milk.

“If cheap dairy products start coming in from overseas, consumers will probably choose the imports. I fear it would be too late if countermeasures are taken after we start to be affected,” he said.

Japan, the leading economy in the deal, is one of the five other countries to have ratified it, along with Mexico, Singapore, New Zealand and Canada.

The members yet to finish domestic procedures are Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam.

In the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima, which raises the largest number of pigs in Japan, Michio Ushidome, the head of an association of black-pig producers, expressed doubts about the touted benefits of the pact.

“Small farmers like us are unlikely to enjoy benefits from it,” he said, adding he hopes the rift between the pact’s signatories and the United States, which pulled out of the framework in 2017, would not grow to affect exports of Japanese farm products.

“We want (the government) to make sure it takes support measures if pig-farming businesses begin to feel the crunch,” Ushidome said.

Other farmers, including rice producer Mitsuo Ota in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, also worry about lower tariffs.

“It is something the government decided in consideration of the country’s trade overall. No matter how much we farmers oppose it, we have to follow the decision in the end,” said Ota.

Japan’s business sector, in contrast, welcomed the pact’s expected entry into force.

“It is an enormous achievement. We, as corporate managers, very much welcome the move,” said Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Japan’s largest business lobby the Japan Business Federation, commonly known as Keidanren.

Nakanishi said that even though he can understand the reasons behind the United States’ withdrawal from the framework, Japan needs to promote free trade deals.

“People should understand each country has its own circumstances to consider,” Nakanishi said.

Japanese farmers expressed concern Wednesday about an expected influx of imports and other effects of a trans-Pacific free trade agreement led by Japan that is set to enter into force on Dec. 30.

Australia said earlier in the day it has become the sixth nation to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, fulfilling the requirements for the 11-member tariff-cutting framework to take effect.

Reaching the required number of states to have ratified the deal occurred “rather fast,” said 60-year-old Tatsumi Dejima, who runs a farm in the village of Sarabetsu in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island prefecture known for producing half of Japan’s raw milk.

“If cheap dairy products start coming in from overseas, consumers will probably choose the imports. I fear it would be too late if countermeasures are taken after we start to be affected,” he said.

Japan, the leading economy in the deal, is one of the five other countries to have ratified it, along with Mexico, Singapore, New Zealand and Canada.

The members yet to finish domestic procedures are Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam.

In the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima, which raises the largest number of pigs in Japan, Michio Ushidome, the head of an association of black-pig producers, expressed doubts about the touted benefits of the pact.

“Small farmers like us are unlikely to enjoy benefits from it,” he said, adding he hopes the rift between the pact’s signatories and the United States, which pulled out of the framework in 2017, would not grow to affect exports of Japanese farm products.

“We want (the government) to make sure it takes support measures if pig-farming businesses begin to feel the crunch,” Ushidome said.

Other farmers, including rice producer Mitsuo Ota in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, also worry about lower tariffs.

“It is something the government decided in consideration of the country’s trade overall. No matter how much we farmers oppose it, we have to follow the decision in the end,” said Ota.

Japan’s business sector, in contrast, welcomed the pact’s expected entry into force.

“It is an enormous achievement. We, as corporate managers, very much welcome the move,” said Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Japan’s largest business lobby the Japan Business Federation, commonly known as Keidanren.

Nakanishi said that even though he can understand the reasons behind the United States’ withdrawal from the framework, Japan needs to promote free trade deals.

“People should understand each country has its own circumstances to consider,” Nakanishi said.