U.S.-Japan trade deal aims to put U.S. farmers on par with Trans-Pacific trade pact competitors

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new U.S.-Japan trade deal will provide staged reduction of Japanese tariffs for more than $2 billion worth of U.S. beef and pork, matching access now granted to the 11 Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact countries, a text of the agreement shows.

U.S. President Donald Trump presided over a White House signing ceremony on Monday for the final text of the limited bilateral trade pact, more then 2-1/2 years after he pulled the United States out of the much broader TPP.

The move left U.S. farmers and food producers at a disadvantage in the Japanese market to competitors from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and the U.S.-Japan deal aims to even that playing field by cutting Japanese tariffs on many of those products.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said the pact would immediately eliminate Japan’s tariffs on U.S. food and agricultural imports valued at about $1.3 billion per year, including almonds, blueberries, cranberries, walnuts, sweet corn, lactose, milk albumin, grain sorghum, food supplements, broccoli and prunes.

It said an additional $3 billion worth of products would benefit from staged tariff elimination, matching access conditions in the TPP. That group includes processed pork, beef offal, frozen poultry, wine, frozen potatoes, oranges, fresh cherries, cheese and whey, ethanol, egg products and tomato paste.

The deal will restore a country-specific tariff free quota for U.S. wheat that will grow to 150,000 metric tons over six years, matching TPP, and Japan will reduce its markup on imported U.S. wheat by 45% to the same levels as TPP countries.

Barley will see access to Japan partially restored to TPP levels with a 45% reduction in markup over eight years, and Japan will establish new country-specific quotas for U.S. unroasted malt. But the deal does not provide the United States access to a TPP-wide quota that grows to 65,000 tons over nine years.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Peter Cooney