On Sept. 25, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan reached two agreements to rebalance trade between the two nations. According to a White House fact sheet, the agreements achieve concrete outcomes from negotiations, which were launched at last year’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Under a market access agreement, Japan will open its markets to approximately $7 billion in American agricultural exports and more. In the months ahead, the United States will engage in further negotiations in the interest of achieving a final, comprehensive trade deal.

Dairy industry organizations were quick to react to the news.

“The U.S. dairy industry is very pleased to see that the United States and Japan have reached an agreement that will reduce tariffs on U.S. exports of certain food and agricultural goods to Japan’s growing market,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). “Although full details of the agreement have not been released, we are confident this deal is a step in the right direction and will help to improve our current market position with Japan.

“If we had done nothing, U.S. dairy would continue to be less competitive in a global marketplace where Japan has implemented trade deals with competitors, including the EU, New Zealand and Australia,” he continued. “While early reports indicate this deal does not fully achieve the same tariff rate reductions as those negotiated under the abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership or the EU-Japan deal, it should deliver those benefits to cheese and whey — two of our largest exports to Japan.

“The administration notes that this is the first step of a multi-step process to achieve a more level playing field for American agriculture in Japan, and we hope the next step comes quickly and delivers benefits for all dairy products,” Dykes said. “IDFA’s aim with the U.S.-Japan deal was to realize the same tariff-rate reductions afforded the EU and competitors through CPTPP, thereby ensuring American producers and processors remain on a level playing field with our competitors. Without a level playing field for U.S. dairy in ever-growing Asian markets, we will continue to cede valuable market share to global competitors.”

Dykes added that IDFA will continue to fight to make sure the U.S. dairy industry is prioritized in every trade negotiation the administration undertakes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), both headquartered in Arlington, Va., thanked the U.S. government for its work to reach an interim agreement with Japan, while noting that the work to secure a sufficient competitive landscape in Japan for dairy is not finished.

NMPF and USDEC said they look forward to reviewing with their members the details of this first stage of a trade agreement with Japan to take advantage of the new opportunities it will provide on a near-term basis while continuing to work with the administration to secure the additional elements that are still needed to ensure a strong final dairy package in a comprehensive agreement.

“This enhanced access into the Japanese market is welcome news. Japan represents a rapidly growing market, and without a trade deal, our competitors are poised to seize valuable market share from U.S. dairy,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. “This first stage of a U.S.-Japan agreement will improve upon today’s status quo, which has been unsatisfactory ever since Japan’s treaties with the CPTPP nations and the EU went into effect.

“To continue that progress toward closing the competitiveness gap with both CPTPP and EU suppliers, it’s essential that the U.S. secure further market openings and assurances in the second stage of negotiations with Japan to best position the U.S. to compete against all of our major competitors in Japan,” he added.

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, called the trade agreement welcome news for U.S. farmers.

“Today’s news is not the end of the road though; it’s the first leg of the journey,” he said. “We thank America’s trade negotiators for their pursuit of a deal aimed at benefiting our dairy farmers and expanding international markets for their high-quality milk. To reap those full rewards and ensure the U.S. is able to best compete in the Japanese market, the subsequent stage of negotiations must secure further inroads into Japan, building upon what our key competitors — the European Union and New Zealand — have secured there."