Japan and the United States will likely launch trade talks in April or May, later than initially planned, as Washington needs to focus first on negotiations with Beijing, sources with knowledge of the plan said Monday.
Based on an agreement reached last September, the Japan-U.S. talks are expected to be held in Washington before May 26, when President Donald Trump plans to visit Japan, the sources said.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japanese economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi were initially expected to meet in March. But Lighthizer’s schedule is apparently tight as he is also in charge of the U.S.-China negotiations.
As financial markets remain focused on the outcome of trade talks between the world’s two largest economies, Trump said Sunday he will extend the deadline for a trade deal with Beijing beyond Friday while delaying the imposition of additional tariffs on Chinese imports.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump agreed to start bilateral trade talks last September, in a move largely seen as Tokyo acquiescing to Washington. The government has said the negotiations for a trade deal with the U.S. will focus primarily on goods, drawing a line against a more wide-ranging free trade agreement.
The first meeting will reportedly determine the scope of negotiations on agriculture and industrial products.
As Trump has taken issue with the hefty U.S. trade deficit with major exporters like Japan, the focus would be whether the two nations will take up nontariff measures, such as an import cap on Japanese cars.
For such nontariff measures, Japan is seen as hoping to focus on areas where bilateral consultations would be easier, including customs procedures. But speculation has grown that the U.S. will push for a review of regulations on medicine and medical equipment.
Abe has been promoting free trade as part of his growth strategy for the export-reliant Japanese economy.
While Japan has been bracing for its bilateral talks with the U.S., its key trading partner, a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord and an economic partnership agreement with the European Union have taken effect.