Business

Japan and U.S. to set up working-level panels on trade

Kyodo

The Japanese and American governments will set up at least eight working-level groups this month in such areas as trade and infrastructure under the bilateral framework set up in response to President Donald Trump’s campaign vow to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Japan, sources have said.

The working groups will be created in economic talks between Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. The second round is scheduled for Oct. 17 in Washington.

Partly due to delays in personnel appointments by Trump, no talks have been held since the first round in April, which was held in Tokyo.

Additionally, an informal meeting between Aso and Pence planned for Tuesday was canceled so Aso could remain in Japan to deal with rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The working groups will cover topics in line with the three policy pillars agreed to in the talks — common strategy on trade and investment rules, cooperation on economic and structural policies, and sectoral cooperation.

As for economic and structural policies, one working group will discuss corporate tax evasion and macroeconomic issues. The two allies also plan to create at least five groups to cover infrastructure, cybersecurity, energy and other issues under the sectoral cooperation pillar. The sources say the U.S. side is asking to set up even more groups.

Two groups are expected to study rules pertaining to investment and trade in areas including agriculture and automobiles.

The Japanese side hopes to rack up progress on investment rules and energy to avoid pressure to reduce the U.S. trade deficit by constricting Japanese exports and improving market access.

The working-level talks may take up the issue of whether to review the so-called safeguard tariffs that Tokyo imposed in August on frozen beef imports, the sources said.

But Tokyo hopes to leave important agenda items, such whether to sign a bilateral free trade agreement, to direct negotiations between Aso and Pence even if the issue is brought up at the working level, they said.