Japan and U.S. agree to accelerate trade talks

Kyodo, JIJI

Japanese economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Thursday he has agreed with the United States to speed up negotiations for a bilateral trade deal.

Motegi made the comment to reporters in Washington after meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“We agreed to accelerate our negotiations in a bid to resolve pending issues early,” Motegi told reporters after the first-day session that lasted about three hours.

“We carefully discussed each of the remaining issues,” he said, while stopping short of commenting on details.

Their two-day meeting through Friday started after talks were put on hold during campaigning for Japan’s July 21 Upper House election.

Japan and the United States are believed to be aiming for an agreement in September.

Following up on working-level talks held in Washington last month, Motegi and Lighthizer are expected to continue discussions on tariff cuts in sensitive areas such as beef and pork by Japan and automobiles and auto parts by the United States.

This is also the first Japan-U.S. ministerial trade meeting since last months election.

Motegi and Lighthizer will meet again on Friday morning, and working-level talks are slated to be held later.

If Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump meet in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in late September, that could be an opportunity for the two countries to reach a certain agreement in the bilateral trade negotiations, sources familiar with the situation said.

Abe and Trump may also hold a bilateral meeting when they visit France in late August to attend a summit of the Group of Seven major industrial countries.