Chris Voigt, Executive Director of the Washington state Potato Commission says the trade agreement with Japan, signed by President Trump in early October, means good things for Northwest growers going forward. He said the lack of a trade deal meant competitors such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the European Union all enjoyed tariffs advantages in Japan.
“Well, with this new agreement with Japan, we’re actually going to match what our competition has, so we’re going to be at the same tariff level, and eventually it’ll be phased down to zero after a few years. So, we’re back on an even playing field, so we’re pretty happy about it, because we know if we’ve got a level playing field we can be very competitive in the Pacific Rim.”
Voigt said he’s excited to have the opportunity to earn back some business that was lost in Japan. However, Voigt says work in Japan is far from done. One of the issues he would still like to see addressed fresh potatoes. Despite the updated trade agreement, opportunities to ship fresh potatoes to Japan are very limited.
In response Representative Dan Newhouse has called on the USDA to continue to work with Japanese officials to allow the sale of fresh potatoes in that country. Voigt said access for fresh potatoes has been an issue for decades.
“Now that we’ve got this tariff reduction agreement in place, now it’s time to do what’s right, and that’s to get this off the plate of negotiations that’s been on there for 20 years and now it’s time to get market access in Japan for fresh potatoes.”
Voigt noted Japan could be one of the largest fresh potato markets for U.S. growers if opened.
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