Daines, stockgrowers head, attend Japan trade deal signing

Sen. Steve Daines and the head of the Montana Stockgrowers Association were present Monday when President Donald Trump signed a limited trade deal with Japan expected to benefit ranchers and farmers in the Treasure State.

The deal will eliminate tariffs and expand market access on farm, industrial and digital products. But it does not address the bigger hurdle of autos. President Donald Trump indicated the two countries were still working on a broader agreement. 

Joining Daines at the signing was Fred Wacker of Miles City, who serves as president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. Daines’ staff said Daines was invited to the ceremony by Trump for his role on Senate Finance and help securing this deal.

Daines, a Montana Republican running for re-election in 2020, described it as an exciting and historic day for Montana and the United States.

He said it was the “first-ever official US-Japan trade agreement.” 

“This is a major step forward for opening up critical market for our producers,” he said, adding Japan is our largest beef-export market and allows Montana ranchers and farmers to compete on a level playing field with other international competitors.

Daines said key benefits to Montana would be from lower tariffs on products such as fresh and frozen beef and pork (from 38.5% to 27.6% starting Jan. 1 and eventually 9% by 2033), which equals a 75% reduction in beef tariffs; provide a country-specific quota for wheat and wheat products and lowering the mark-up on imported U.S. wheat and barley.

“The bottom line is it is a deal that provides more opportunity for Montana’s ranchers and farmers,” Daines said, thanking Trump and the Montana agriculture community for pushing to get a deal signed.

Wacker, in an interview with the Tribune after the ceremony, agreed and called it great news for the state.

“I think it is going to have a big, big impact on cattle business and agriculture in Montana,” he said, adding it would benefit his association’s 1,200 members. 

Wacker said the beef and agriculture products could be shipped to Japan without a mandate to buy something in exchange.

“It’s the perfect thing to balance trade with,” he said. Wacker said he also shook the president’s hand, thanked Trump, the president’s staff members and Daines for reaching a deal with Japan.

Paul Wiseman, economics writer for the Associated Press, reported the deal would restore benefits American farmers lost when Trump pulled out of a broader Asia-Pacific pact his first week in office.

It put U.S. farmers at a disadvantage in Japan. The other 11 Pacific Rim countries, including big farm producers such as New Zealand and Canada received preferential treatment in Japan, he said.

It includes market-opening commitments on $40 billion worth of digital trade between the United States and Japan.

Trump has been critical about 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, AP reported.  

In 2018, Japan was the fifth-highest recipient of Montana exports with $56 million in goods. Canada was first with $680 million, South Korea second with $292 million, China third with $115 million and Belgium fourth with $85 million, according to http://www.worldstopexports.com.

Other members of Montana’s congressional delegation also said earlier it was good news for the state’s ranchers and farmers.