BY MARTIN KIDSTON
Montana’s U.S. senators lauded an agreement signed Monday by President Donald Trump establishing a limited trade deal with Japan, one that opens Japanese markets to an estimated $7 billion in American agricultural goods.
Sen. Steve Daines joined Trump in Monday’s signing ceremony.
“This is a major step forward opening up critical markets for our producers,” Daines said Monday following the bill signing. “It allows our Montana farmers and ranchers to compete on a level playing field with other national competitors who are also selling to Japanese markets.”
The deal opens Japanese markets to some $7 billion in American agricultural products, including beef, pork, wheat, corn and cheese. In return, Trump agreed to cut tariffs on products like soy sauce, persimmons and green tea, but not automobiles.
Daines said the deal reduces tariffs on fresh and frozen pork from 38.5% to 27.6% on Jan. 1.
“It eventually glide paths down to 9% by 2033,” he said. “This represents a 75 percent reduction in beef tariffs for our Montana farmers.”
American farmers and ranchers had been operating at a disadvantage ever since Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership two years ago. The new deal reopens some markets lost by U.S. farmers.
Sen. Jon Tester has been critical of the Trump administration’s trade policies, which he described as harmful to working Montana farmers and ranchers. At one point, he invited Trump to Montana to see “first-hand” the impacts his policies were taking on working families.
But Tester was tentatively optimistic after the initial announcement that a deal had finally been reached with Japan.
“This is welcome news for Montana’s farmers and ranchers, who rely on access to foreign markets like Japan to sell their world-class products,” Tester said. “Japan is the largest importer of Montana’s wheat, and plays a critical role in our state’s number one industry.”
As for the deal signed Monday, Tester said, “I hope it means the Trump administration will see the wisdom of expanding access to foreign markets instead of closing them off.”
This story was originally published by the Missoula Current here.