Business / Economy

Japan-U.S. talks on bilateral trade deal likely to face delay

JIJI

Japan and the United States are unlikely to open negotiations on a proposed bilateral trade pact before the end of this month, due chiefly to the prolonged partial U.S. government shutdown, sources have said.

In addition, it will become difficult for economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who will represent Japan in the new trade talks, to arrange his schedule for the negotiations with the United States, as Japan’s Diet will be convened for a 150-day regular session on Monday, the sources said Friday.

The negotiations may not begin before early spring, people familiar with the situation said.

At their meeting in September last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to launch negotiations on concluding a trade pact.

In a joint statement adopted at the bilateral summit, Abe and Trump said the negotiations will cover goods and services.

On Dec. 21, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced the purpose of the trade talks, paving the way for the bilateral negotiations to be launched late this month.

But the U.S. International Trade Commission has yet to compile a report on its analysis of economic impacts of the envisaged U.S.-Japan trade pact, which would be reported to the USTR before the opening of the negotiations.

The expected delay in the launch of the talks is also because the U.S. government is putting priority on its trade talks with China, sources said, adding that the U.S. government shutdown is believed to have affected operations at the Office of the USTR.

When they meet first in the trade negotiations, Japan and the United States are expected to discuss how to proceed with the talks.

But a Japanese official said that the talks may not be held until April depending on the situation.

With Washington highly likely to make tough demands in the agriculture and automobile sectors, Tokyo is concerned about impacts the trade talks could have on an election in the summer for the House of Councilors if the negotiations kick into full gear just before the triennial vote, some sources said.