Business

Japan and U.S. close working-level trade talks, with plans for more next week

JIJI

Working-level officials from Japan and the United States wrapped up their two-day trade talks in Washington on Wednesday, agreeing to meet again on the sidelines of a ministerial session expected to take place next week.

The two sides accelerated negotiations on proposed tariff reductions on agricultural and industrial products, in an effort to meet their goal of reaching a broad agreement by late September.

“The points of contention have become very clear and discussions have been progressing,” said Kazuhisa Shibuya, a senior policy coordinator at Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat, at a news conference following the talks.

Japan and the United States are considering holding ministerial trade talks in Washington on Aug. 21 and 22, economic and fiscal policy minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at a news conference in Tokyo.

The coming working-level and ministerial talks are expected to be followed by a summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a Group of Seven summit in France from Aug. 24 to 26.

Tariff negotiations have so far focused on farm products, as Washington pushes for greater U.S. access to the Japanese agricultural market, while talks on Tokyo’s demand that Washington reduce tariffs on industrial products are said to be lagging behind.

The United States is unlikely to make substantial concessions on the industrial sector anytime soon, according to sources familiar with the situation. Shibuya indicated that gaps remain between the sides.

Tokyo and Washington have begun work on text for the proposed trade agreement. Shibuya said the two sides have also started reviewing rules of origin, among criteria for making products tariff-free.