The first Japan-U.S. talks held in parallel with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade initiative ended Friday in Tokyo, setting the stage for further discussions on more specific issues.

Since this was the inaugural round, the two sides basically stated their positions and tried to establish the issues to focus on from the next discussions, said Takeo Mori, ambassador for economic diplomacy and head of the Japanese delegation.

“We haven’t come to a point where we’ve already found common ground or reached agreement on certain fields,” Mori told reporters.

Japan officially joined the TPP talks on July 23 in Malaysia, long after the other 11 members of the U.S.-led free-trade framework.

“In our view, the negotiations got off to a good start. We recognize that we have a great deal of challenging work ahead of us,” Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler said at a separate news conference later in the day.

During the three-day talks between the two biggest TPP economies, Japanese and U.S. officials covered automobile trade issues and nine nontariff barriers, including insurance, intellectual property and investment.

What was discussed by the two countries regarding the automotive sector will be reflected in the ongoing TPP negotiations, while nontariff measures will be implemented through other means.

Cutler said the American delegation also discussed standards, certifications and financial incentives in the Japanese auto market, and indicated its stance on competition in the Japanese insurance market, which is dominated by state-owned Japan Post Insurance Co.

Cutler said the recent announcement by Japan Post Insurance that it intends to collaborate with American Family Life Assurance Co. (Aflac) was “a positive step forward,” but “this does not solve the broad concerns we have in this area.”

While Japan is looking to protect its high tariffs on certain key agricultural products, such as rice and wheat, the two sides did not tackle the issue this time round.

Information from Kyodo added

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