U.S. Senators to Japan: Do as We Say, Not as We Do?

Bryan Riley /

A recently released letter from 18 U.S. Senators to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman asked Japan to open its agricultural market to foreign exports in ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations:

In previous trade negotiations, the United States requested and received full and comprehensive liberalization in the agricultural sector from both developed countries like Japan as well as developing countries.

But at least one country has not comprehensively liberalized its agricultural sector: the United States. For example, over the past 10 years, refined sugar prices were 78 percent higher on average in the United States than in the rest of the world. Other barriers restrict imports of tomatoes, cheese, tuna, and many other agricultural products. These U.S. barriers weaken the economy. The only reason they remain on the books is to provide special treatment to industries based on their political clout.

Negotiators may find that Japan and other countries will be much more receptive to requests for market access if Americans offer full and comprehensive liberalization of all politically protected sectors of the U.S. economy.