If Only This were an April Fool’s Day Hoax

Reprinted with permission from U.S. Wheat Associates. Original article, published on 04/01/2019, is here.

In much of the Western World, on April 1, people go sometimes to great lengths to create mostly harmless “April Fools’ Day” hoaxes. There are many theories about how this odd “celebration” came to be, including an association with the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.

On this April Fools’ Day, however, it is no hoax that today the effective tariff applied to U.S. wheat imported by Japan is nearly $20 per metric ton (or 50 cents per bushel) more than the tariff applied Canadian and Australian wheat. That is because the United States is not a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP. In fact, the effective internal tariff on wheat from those CPTPP member countries will drop again on April 1 in 2020 and drop again every April 1 until 2026.

There is no hard evidence that U.S. wheat sales to Japan have gone down because of this harmful situation. Eventually, however, this reduction will be about $70 per metric ton, or 45 percent below the current effective tariff applied to U.S. wheat. Japan has no obligation to change this tariff reduction schedule so that difference will likely shut a major portion of U.S. wheat exports out of the Japanese market and undo decades of market development work.

“We have spent countless hours and millions of hard-earned farmer dollars building demand for U.S. wheat in this market,” said U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) President Vince Peterson last December in testimony to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative about trade negotiations with Japan.

He continued by saying that achieving a satisfactory outcome in negotiations between the United States and Japan matters a great deal to U.S. wheat farmers who have long ties with Japan.

“That legacy is on the verge of disappearing due to CPTPP,” Peterson said.

USW and U.S. farmers have urged the Trump Administration to act quickly to prevent such losses. Hopefully that will happen long before the next April Fools’ Day.