WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign a limited trade agreement Monday with Japan, a deal that would win back benefits American farmers lost when Trump pulled out of a broader Asia-Pacific pact his first week in office.
U.S. farmers have been operating at a disadvantage in Japan since Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which had been negotiated by the Obama administration. The other 11 Pacific Rim countries, including big farm producers such as New Zealand and Canada, went ahead without the United States and were enjoying preferential treatment in Japan.
The Washington wheat industry welcomed the agreement when it was first announced last month. Japan traditionally has been among the biggest importers of the region’s wheat.
“The main thing is it gets us to an equal footing with our competitors as far as a price standpoint. This is just great news,” Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, said at the time.
Trump earlier had put Washington wheat markets in jeopardy when he decided in 2017 to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which put U.S. wheat farmers at a graduating trade disadvantage to both Canada and Australia.
While rewarding American farmers, the new U.S.-Japan mini-deal does not resolve differences over trade in autos. Trump has said the two countries continue to work on a more comprehensive agreement.
Trump has threatened to impose import taxes on foreign autos, claiming they pose a threat to U.S. national security. At the U.N. general assembly, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that Trump had assured him that a previous agreement to spare Japan from new auto tariffs still stood.
But Japanese automakers were disappointed that the United States kept existing auto tariffs at 2.5%.
The limited trade pact also includes market-opening commitments on $40 billion worth of digital trade between the two countries.
Trump has long complained by America’s large trade deficit with Japan, which came to $58 billion last year. Japan is the world’s third-biggest economy behind the United States and China.
The president was set to sign the deal at the White House Monday afternoon.
The news might sound familiar. The deal was first announced at the August Group of 7 summit in Biarritz, France. At the UN gathering last month, the two countries signed an agreement-in-principle. On Monday, Trump was scheduled to sign the final text.
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