USA Rice Federation President and CEO Betsy Ward met with Mr. Akira Banzai, president of Japan's Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu) to discuss trade issues including the ongoing negotiations under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP seeks to establish a series of free trade agreements between the seven participating nations, including the United States. While Japan is not presently a TPP partner, the Japanese government is reportedly leaning towards joining the talks.

Japanese agricultural interests are wary of the TPP because of the domestic reforms that would be required should Japan agree to additional import liberalization. Ward, who was joined by USA Rice staff members Bob Cummings and Beth Park, expressed USA Rice's support for a comprehensive and market-opening TPP agreement and noted that the decision as to whether Japan will join the TPP negotiations is an internal decision to be made in Japan.

JA-Zenchu is the major agricultural cooperative group in Japan, with an extensive presence throughout Japan's agricultural sector. The JA-Zenchu group is reportedly meeting with other key U.S. agricultural groups this week.