• JIJI, Bloomberg


The United States and Japan will begin consultations early next year in order to enter negotiations on a broader trade agreement than the one signed in October, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement on Wednesday.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in the statement that President Donald Trump is expected to sign the implementing proclamation for the recently signed agreement next week.

The statement was issued after Japan completed domestic procedures needed for that pact’s effectuation, which the two countries hope will take place on Jan. 1. The Diet endorsed the bilateral pact on Wednesday.

“I commend Japan’s quick action to approve” the pact, Lighthizer said. Washington’s eagerness for the potential new round of bilateral trade talks comes as Trump looks to score diplomatic wins ahead of his re-election campaign next year.

The recently signed deal focuses on tariff cuts for goods things as agricultural and industrial products, while sidestepping more contentious areas such as automotive tariffs. U.S. industry groups and farmers have said the deal is insufficient and have called for a more comprehensive trade accord covering more goods and services.

Reflecting such views, Trump told the press on Wednesday during a trip to the U.K. that the October agreement was “a partial deal,” adding that the rest “will come next year.”

The Trump administration plans to bypass U.S. congressional approval procedures for the pact based on a special measure under the Trade Promotion Authority law that grants the president unilateral authority in trade negotiations.

Trump was eager to make a deal with Japan to appease U.S. farmers, whose access to the Chinese market has been constrained as a result of his trade war with Beijing. Also reeling from bad weather and low commodity prices, American farmers are a core component of Trump’s political base.

Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat calculated that the two-way deal would bolster its real gross domestic product by 0.8 percent, but its calculations were based on the assumption that existing tariffs on Japanese car exports to the U.S. would be removed.

Tokyo and Washington have agreed to launch discussions on the scope of negotiations for the potential second trade deal within four months of the first deal going into effect. Japan hopes to include unresolved issues, such as possible elimination of U.S. tariffs on Japanese automobiles and auto parts, in the agenda for the upcoming negotiations.

Under the recently signed pact, Japan will open its beef and pork markets for U.S. produce at levels on par with those it promised under the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade agreement, which entered into force late last year.

The pact excludes rice, for which Japan is cautious about opening its market further. Tokyo has also avoided setting a low-tariff import quota for U.S. dairy products. U.S. representatives are expected to push for improvements in these areas.

U.S. farm industry groups lauded the Japanese parliament’s approval of the trade accord on Wednesday.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation said the pact, which will give U.S. red meat “greater access for Japanese consumers,” is “a major breakthrough for U.S. agriculture.”

“The U.S. beef and pork industries look forward to expanded opportunities in Japan,” it said, adding that “Japanese consumers will now enjoy more affordable access to a wider range of U.S. products.”

The U.S. Grains Council said, “The agreement solidifies trade with our second-largest corn market.”

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