Trade war would threaten global growth, Japan and China agree in first economic talks since 2010

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

Japan and China agreed Monday in their first high-level economic dialogue in nearly eight years that any trade war poses a threat to global growth and that the two countries will step up efforts to cooperate.

The agreement was reached in Tokyo amid increasing trade friction between China and the United States.

“We shared the recognition that a trade war caused by any nation would have a massive impact on the prosperity of the global economy,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters after the meeting, which was attended by ministers and senior officials.

“The dialogue was a huge step toward improving the bilateral relationship,” Kono said. “We look forward to developing our economic cooperation.”

Since the last high-level dialogue in 2010, Sino-Japanese relations had been at their lowest ebb due to disputes over territorial and historical issues.

At the outset of Monday’s dialogue, Kono and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi both said the two are now on a new starting line to develop their bilateral relationship. This year marks the 40th anniversary since the conclusion of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday and Thursday in Florida, with North Korea and trade set to top the agenda.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said the ministers of the Asian powers did not touch on the Abe-Trump summit. Trump has been criticizing both China and Japan for what he sees as unfair trade and economic policies.

The Japanese official said the high-level dialogue centered on economic issues, including envisioned regional free trade agreements like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

“Japan and China see each other as important partners,” Kono said, adding also it is possible for Tokyo to cooperate with Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to expand infrastructure networks in Asia, the Mideast, Europe and Africa under certain conditions.

He said Japan is prepared to cooperate on projects that “fulfill international standards” on issues like “transparency” and “openness.”

On Sunday, Kono and Wang, who was promoted to state councilor in March, held a separate meeting in which they agreed that complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a shared goal. Kono meanwhile called for China’s cooperation in settling the abduction issue involving Japanese taken by Pyongyang’s agents in the 1970s and 1980s.