For US beef exporters, Japan trade deal levels playing field but sales surge unlikely

Exports of US beef to Japan are already high enough to be close to a “safeguard” level at which higher tariffs kick in. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 26 September 2019

For US beef exporters, Japan trade deal levels playing field but sales surge unlikely

  • The deal Trump and Abe signed on Wednesday will gradually reduce tariffs on US farm goods
  • Japan will permit lower import tariffs on 242,000 tons of US beef in fiscal 2020

TOKYO: US beef exporters, unhappy after President Donald Trump pulled out of a multilateral trade pact in 2017, stand to sell more meat in Japan after the US leader and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cut a deal this week to slice into trade tariffs.
But agriculture experts say that for now, that boost may be lean: exports of US beef to Japan are already high enough to be close to a “safeguard” level at which higher tariffs kick in.
The deal Trump and Abe signed on Wednesday will gradually reduce tariffs on US farm goods, Japanese machine tools and other products while staving off the imminent threat of higher US duties on Japanese autos — Tokyo’s biggest concern in the talks.
Under the deal, Japan will cut tariffs on US agricultural products, including beef, to around levels granted to signatories of the multilateral Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as TPP-11, the deal that emerged after Trump walked away in 2017.
Ahead of next year’s US presidential election, those lower tariffs will help Trump soothe US farmers — a key electoral constituency — who have been hurting from the US-China trade war, even as they were still smarting from the loss of low-tariff prospects in the TPP.
“US farmers have been pretty hard hit by the US-China trade friction. How to ensure their profits is vital to (Trump’s) re-election strategy so it was important to quickly take some steps,” said Junichi Sugawara, a senior researcher at Mizuho Research Institute.

‘Level playing field’
Japan will permit lower import tariffs on 242,000 tons of US beef in fiscal 2020, with that quota rising to 293,000 tons in fiscal 2033. Japan imported 254,529 tons of US beef in the latest fiscal year through the end of March.
“Since beef imports are close to the safeguard level, it’s hard to think imports from America will rise rapidly,” Sugawara said. “A level playing field with (rival beef supplier) Australia has been ensured so profits will likely rise, but the amount will probably not rise so much.”
Tariffs on US beef imports, currently 38.5 percent, will fall in stages to 9 percent by fiscal 2033. TPP-11 members — such as Australia — saw tariffs fall to 26.6 percent this year after the pact took effect in December 2018 and will see further decreases to 9 percent, also by fiscal 2033. “We think the tariff gap has slowed growth in Japan,” US Meat Export Federation spokesman Joe Schuele told Reuters by telephone. He added, though, that meat exports had “held up fairly well.”
Japan’s imports of US beef grew 10.3 percent in fiscal 2018/19 from the previous year, with their share of the market for imported beef remaining steady at about 41 percent. Imports from Australia, America’s main competitor, rose 4.1 percent while their market share dipped a bit, to 50 percent from 52.1 percent.
A Japanese farm ministry official said beef imports are affected by several factors, including exchange rates, price and customer preferences, not just tariffs.
Trump on Wednesday praised the overall US-Japan deal, which he said would open up Japanese markets to $7 billion worth of US products, as a “huge victory for America’s farmers, ranchers and growers.”
Some trade experts, however, saw it differently.
“The US can tell its farmers, who are in a pinch, that it won concessions from Japan,” said Takashi Imamura, a general manager at Marubeni Corp’s research institute. “But considering the scale of America, $7 billion is not such a big achievement.”


In streaming wars, Disney reaches beyond kids and families

Updated 12 November 2019

In streaming wars, Disney reaches beyond kids and families

  • Disney’s marketing force is reaching beyond its traditional family audience to send a message that its $7-a-month subscription service Disney+ offers something for all ages

LOS ANGELES: During commercial breaks in a broadcast of World Wrestling Entertainment’s WWE SmackDown, fans were shown ads for Walt Disney Co’s new streaming service, Disney+. So were “Monday Night Football” viewers and video gamers watching Twitch.
“Try to keep up,” said Captain Marvel in one ad after a series of fast-paced clips from “Star Wars,” “The Simpsons,” “The Avengers” and other Disney-owned hits from outside of its deep catalogue of children’s classics.
Disney’s marketing force is reaching beyond its traditional family audience to send a message that its $7-a-month subscription service Disney+ offers something for all ages. The service debuted on Tuesday in the United States, Canada and The Netherlands.
“It’s incumbent upon us to market it the right way to emphasize the fact that it’s not just for kids,” Disney executive Kevin Mayer said during a briefing at the company’s Burbank, California, headquarters. “It’s all family friendly, but everyone can enjoy this product.”
Disney has told investors it can hook 60 million to 90 million customers within about five years as it competes for customers in a crowded streaming market dominated by Netflix Inc. 
Signing up adults who do not have children at home is part of that plan.
Consumers may not realize that after a series of acquisitions Disney is much more than classics like “Cinderella” and “Mary Poppins” that charmed generations of families. The company now owns the celebrated “Star Wars” movie franchise; Iron Man, the Hulk and dozens of other Marvel superheroes; “Toy Story” animation house Pixar, and nature programming channel National Geographic.
Previously released movies and TV series from all of those brands, plus 30 seasons of “The Simpsons,” are available on Disney+ alongside decades of Disney’s family-centric offerings.
Disney+ also offers new programming from those brands.
To raise awareness, the company is promoting Disney+ during sports and primetime TV telecasts to get in front of what Hollywood calls the four quadrants of viewers: male, female, young and old.
“We’re unmatched in quality and appeal across our four-quadrant audience spanning a variety of genres, formats and arenas, and will continue to build on that year after year,” said Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing for Disney+.
In addition to the wrestling, football and gaming contests, ads ran during the World Series and the ABC News late-night program “Nightline,” and on social media networks.
Early testing in The Netherlands, where Disney offered a free two-month trial of Disney+, attracted a “very large and diverse audience,” said Mayer, who runs Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international unit.
“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” a series aimed at 18- to 49-year olds, ranked as the most-watched piece of content, Mayer said. Next was tween-oriented show “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” followed by “Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” a cartoon for young children.
“Our hypothesis was we will have a lot of different types of viewership, that it’s not going to be centered among any one of our brands,” Mayer said. “It’s quite a nice confirmation of what we want accomplished.”
The initial response in The Netherlands has cheered industry analysts.
“They have some surprising and encouraging signs about this potential that Disney+ is not just kids and family,” Forrester analyst Jim Nail said.
But unlike Netflix, Disney+ limits how far its programming will go to attract older viewers. To keep it family friendly, the service will not have any R-rated movies or TV shows designated TV-MA for mature audiences.
Programming considered too adult for Disney+ may stream on Hulu, which Disney also owns. That will include FX series such as “American Horror Story” and “Fargo” and possibly movies starring Deadpool, a Marvel character known for foul-mouthed humor, when rights become available.
“There are boundaries to what we’ll put on Disney+,” Mayer said. “’Deadpool’ is definitely not for Disney+.”