Business

Japan and U.S. planning trade talks in mid-April, sources say, with farm sector in spotlight

Kyodo

Japan and the United States plan to hold bilateral trade talks from April 15 to 16 in Washington, sources with knowledge of the plan said Friday, as U.S. President Donald Trump pushes for what he calls fair and reciprocal trade.

The two allies will seek to determine the scope of their future negotiations, laying the groundwork for a summit, possibly on April 26, between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump.

Negotiations between economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are expected to be tough, despite Trump’s push to resolve the huge U.S. trade deficit with Japan. A national round of local elections and a House of Councilors election are scheduled in Japan from spring to summer, likely making it more difficult for the country’s negotiators to compromise.

Agriculture produce is expected to be a tricky area at a time when the U.S. beef industry has seen its market share in Japan increasingly taken by competitors under the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact that was revised and implemented after Washington abruptly withdrew.

Japan, wary of America’s desire to further open its sensitive farm sector, has said it will not make concessions bigger than it has already made under existing bilateral and multilateral trade agreements. Tokyo has maintained that the trade talks with Washington will primarily focus on goods only.

The United States, however, is calling for a comprehensive pact that would cover not only goods but also services and investment.

Washington’s call for the inclusion of a currency provision — aimed at preventing currency devaluation — could be a sensitive issue for Japan because its economy has benefited from the depreciation of the yen amid aggressive and unorthodox monetary easing by the Bank of Japan in recent years.

The first meeting will likely be held later than initially thought because Lighthizer has had to focus first on the ongoing trade talks with China.

While Japan was bracing for bilateral trade talks with the U.S., the 11-member TPP and Japan’s economic partnership agreement with the European Union both took effect. Lighthizer has expressed concern that such tariff-cutting pacts will put American farmers at a disadvantage.

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