A step in the right direction
President Donald Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently announced that our two countries finalized a limited trade agreement, and I am encouraged that it was formally signed by both countries this week. While I was participating in a congressional delegation trip to Japan and other Pacific Rim nations in August, we were told that a deal would likely be agreed to soon. A couple of months later, I am pleased it has finally come to fruition. This limited agreement is particularly good news for American farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.
With the agreement, Japan will eliminate or reduce tariffs on $7.2 billion of American goods. More than 90 percent of American agricultural goods will enter Japan either completely free of duties or receive preferential access. Particularly helpful for Oklahoma farmers and ranchers, $2.9 billion of beef and pork will receive gradual tariff reductions. Nine crops, including grain sorghum, will see duties lifted immediately. According to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, Oklahoma boasts 3.3 billion pounds of cattle and hog production each year, and our state ranks as the sixth largest producer of grain sorghum in the United States. Japan is the United States’ third largest international agriculture export market.
In return, American tariffs will be lifted or reduced on some Japanese industrial imports and 42 Japanese agricultural imports, which will reduce prices for American consumers. Not to be overlooked, the deal also includes barrier free transfers for digital products like music, e-books and videos.
As a supporter of free trade, I also believe the United States must ensure trade agreements are fair and bring an overwhelming benefit to our country. I applaud President Trump for his persistence throughout the trade negotiations to achieve that end. While I understand President Trump’s reasoning for pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, it is imperative for America to find comprehensive alternatives to key markets sooner rather than later. Our farmers and manufacturers must not be left behind. And I am pleased President Trump and Prime Minister Abe of Japan have agreed to continue negotiations to expand the scope of the limited trade deal that is in place.
Improving our position in international markets requires larger long-term trade agreements. That is why Congress must move to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The terms were finalized just over a year ago with Mexico and Canada, our two largest international trading partners.
According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, USMCA would create 176,000 jobs and grow the economy by roughly $68 billion. Every day that House Democrats continue to drag their feet in bringing this agreement to the floor for a vote is another day that the American people miss out on the benefits. Congress must cooperate with the President to negotiate and ratify trade agreements that work for American farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.
In the coming days, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will meet in Washington, D.C. with Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Liu He, to continue U.S.-China negotiations. Although it is unlikely a comprehensive trade agreement will emerge from the meetings, I am optimistic that the discussions will help set us on a path toward a deal. For the sake of Oklahoma farmers and ranchers, I hope that is the case.
U.S. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK-04) is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and is the Ranking Member of House Rules Committee. Cole is currently serving in his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was identified as “one of the sharpest minds in the House,” by Time Magazine and “the hardest working Member of Congress,” by Newsmax. In 2017, Cole was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.