• JIJI, Kyodo


U.S. President Donald Trump will hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of a three-day Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, southwestern France, from Saturday, the White House said Thursday.

The two leaders are widely expected to discuss a proposed Japan-U.S. trade agreement.

A senior U.S. government official expressed hope for a swift conclusion to the negotiations, with talks described as having entered the final stage, saying, “We’ve had a strong interest in a trade deal with Japan for quite some time.”

“(Japan is) a partner and ally that (U.S. Trade Representative Robert) Lighthizer is prioritizing,” the official said. But the official avoided commenting on whether Abe and Trump will be able to come up with a clear road map for reaching an agreement when they meet in France.

Lighthizer is the chief U.S. negotiator in the trade talks and is currently meeting with economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Washington.

Motegi said Thursday that Japan and the United States would continue their ministerial-level trade negotiations for one more day.

Motegi and Lighthizer started the latest round of trade talks in Washington on Wednesday, focusing on ironing out differences in views over tariff cuts on key sectors such as beef and automobiles.

“Our discussions are beginning to take final shape” in areas involving agricultural and industrial products as well as in digital trade such as e-commerce, Motegi told reporters following the second day of talks.

But he also said negotiations “take time,” and that he would meet Lighthizer again Friday. The talks had been scheduled to take place for at least two days.

The current negotiations are expected to lay the groundwork for the meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump on the fringes of the G7 summit.

With Trump seeking a bilateral deal to fix what he sees as an imbalanced trade relationship and reduce the hefty U.S. trade deficit with Japan, Tokyo and Washington have been working towards reaching a deal by September.

Motegi told reporters Wednesday that Japan and the United States were getting closer to the “final stage” of their talks, but that they have also admitted that there are gaps the two countries have yet to bridge.

The U.S. has demanded greater market access for American beef, pork, wheat and dairy products, while Japan aims to eliminate U.S. tariffs on vehicles and auto parts.

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