WASHINGTON – U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday conveyed Washington’s concern about Tokyo’s recent imposition of emergency tariffs on frozen beef from the United States and other countries.
Lighthizer raised the issue of the so-called safeguard tariffs — under which Japan boosted the rate to 50 percent from 38.5 percent for the period from Aug. 1 to March 31 — in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Washington, the Office of the USTR said.
U.S. exports of beef and beef products to Japan totaled $1.5 billion last year, making it the United States’ top market, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Lighthizer and Kono agreed to accelerate bilateral discussions as a way of strengthening free and “fair” trade, the office said in a statement.
Under the “America First” policy, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has pledged to reduce trade deficits with countries such as China, Japan, Mexico and Germany.
“Secretary Ross and I welcome the acceleration of discussions on trade with Japan that fulfills the administration’s objectives of advancing free and fair trade with one of our largest trading partners,” Lighthizer was quoted as saying in the statement, in reference to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
“We look forward to constructive and vigorous engagement with Japan across many issues to improve trade outcomes for American workers,” he said.
In a separate meeting, Kono and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed that despite the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal in January, it is vital that the two countries lead the economic order in the Asia-Pacific, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Kono and Tillerson concurred that Tokyo and Washington should step up cooperation in maintaining a free and open order that propels the stability and prosperity of the region, it said.
They also agreed to promote preparations for a trip by Trump to Japan in the fall, a Japanese official said.
“To demonstrate an unshakable alliance between Japan and the United States, we attach great importance to a first visit to Japan by President Trump,” Kono was quoted by the official as saying.
Kono held separate talks with Lighthizer and Tillerson after attending a so-called two-plus-two security meeting involving the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries.