• Kyodo

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Japanese and United States trade officials began two-day talks on Monday in Washington, as the U.S. continues to press Japan to open its auto market to greater imports.

The talks aim to narrow remaining gaps ahead of a meeting by chief negotiators on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal next month.

A focus in negotiations between Takeo Mori, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s Economic Bureau, and Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. trade representative, is Washington’s demand that Japan lift non-tariff barriers such as restrictive safety standard regulations.

Although Japan imposes no duty on imports of automobiles, including those from the U.S., Washington says non-tariff barriers hamper U.S. automakers’ access to Japanese buyers.

The talks were the first since a ministerial meeting last month in Singapore attended by Japan, the U.S. and 10 other Pacific Rim countries.

Differences between the two largest economies have delayed reaching an agreement on the initiative, which aims to bring together 12 countries that account for about 40 percent of global economic output.

Tokyo and Washington have also been at odds over Japan’s tariffs on rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar, and U.S. tariffs on Japanese cars and trucks.