Trump decided to do Abe a favor and delay Japan-U.S. trade talks until after poll, Time reports

JIJI, Kyodo

Full trade talks between Japan and the United States are likely to be held after this summer’s Upper House election, U.S. magazine Time has reported.

U.S. President Donald Trump did Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a favor during their meeting late last month by offering to push back the start of full bilateral trade talks until after the House of Councilors election, the magazine quoted U.S. officials as saying.

Trump values his relationship with Abe, and his decision to ignore the advice of his chief negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, to negotiate Japanese auto exports and U.S. farm products at the most recent summit is “a reflection of that personal touch,” according to Time.

At the summit, Japan’s representatives are believed to have told Washington that Tokyo wants to minimize the impact on the Upper House election of talks around opening markets for farm products and autos, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Japan and the U.S. kicked off the trade talks in April. While bilateral working-level discussions on tariff cuts and their elimination for individual products are expected to begin later this month, a final accord is highly likely to be delayed until after the election, the sources said.

Meanwhile, Trump “has not let go of his threat” to impose 25 percent tariffs on Japanese vehicles unless Japan opens its markets further to U.S. beef and other agricultural products, the magazine said.

Trump faces a May 18 deadline for deciding on the additional tariffs on vehicles from Japan and other countries for national security reasons. But he could delay the decision “by as much as 180 days,” according to Time.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday he is seeking a swift agreement with Japan on tariff cuts for farm goods, hopefully by the end of May.

“(We want) maybe not a comprehensive type of bilateral trade negotiation but certainly one that seals down the agricultural issues that we are very concerned about, and I think we can get that done quickly and hopefully by the time the president visits Japan,” Perdue told reporters in Washington.

Perdue said he talks with Lighthizer “on a frequent basis,” and that the chief U.S. trade negotiator “is very much interested in sealing the deal sooner rather than later.”