Oakland port director calls for stronger trade with Japan

Port cranes at sunset

July 9, 2018 - On the same day U.S. launched tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, the Port of Oakland director called for strengthening the port's trade relationship with Japan in a press release. 

"Everything from machinery to lithium batteries for electric cars is imported to Oakland from Japan," said Chris Lytle, the port's executive director in a statement. "This is very high-value cargo and we would like to see it grow."

Oakland plans to open a $90 billion "Cool Port Oakland" refrigerated distribution center, which could help expand the port's trade with Japan by facilitating more shipments of meat. Lytle also advocated flights to Japan from the Oakland International Airport, which currently sends no planes to Asia.

As U.S. tariffs escalate trade tensions around the world, Lytle is adamant that at least one trade relationship be bolstered — though to date, it hasn't gone unscathed.

"It’s extremely critical for us to have good, strong free trade partners such as Japan,” Lytle said. “Japan is a very large and very important part of our business.”

Containerized trade between Oakland and Japan totaled $2.6 billion in 2017, the Oakland release noted. Japan was the U.S.'s 4th-largest goods trading partner in 2016, according to the U.S. Trade Representative. Trade of goods and services between the two countries reached $270.7 billion that year.

But recent U.S. trade policy has thrown that status quo in jeopardy. Knocked by the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Japan threatened retaliatory tariffs and warned against tariffs on auto imports. Furthermore, stringent trade action against China sends repercussions to Japan, as Japan provides some of the supplies in the Chinese exports that now face tariffs, according to the South China Morning Post.

Japan and the U.S. are expected to hold trade talks in Washington, DC, as soon as the end of the month, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in May, Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko suggested he'd like to see the U.S. rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or enter the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal.

"We would continue to place emphasis on that and on a free and fair, reciprocal trade deal with the United States," he said. "We would like to conclude on that, so that the United States can come back to TPP or even RCEP."

Source: Supply Chain Dive