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Japan and the United States on Wednesday launched an initiative to facilitate regular discussions on trade issues critical to both countries in the face of China’s economic rise.

The first series of meetings under the U.S.-Japan Partnership on Trade are expected early next year, with the initial areas of focus including “third country concerns” and cooperation in improving a rules-based economic order in the Indo-Pacific region, according to officials from the two countries.

The announcement was made as Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi held a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who is on her first visit to Japan since assuming her position in March.

“Our close collaboration will support the Biden-Harris administration’s economic framework for the Indo-Pacific and help create sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and competitive trade policies that lift up our people and economies,” Tai said in a statement.

In an apparent reference to China, Japan and the United States have repeatedly raised the issue of “market-distorting practices,” such as industrial subsidies and overproduction, at meetings of the Group of Seven nations and other multilateral talks.

Earlier in the day, Japan’s trade and industry minister, Koichi Hagiuda, separately discussed with Tai bilateral cooperation in responding to such practices, according to the trade ministry.

Hagiuda and Tai also confirmed that they will work toward resolving a dispute over extra tariffs on Japan’s steel and aluminum exports to the United States imposed by former President Donald Trump, according to the ministry.

Earlier this week, Hagiuda and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo agreed on the launch of negotiations to settle the tariff issue.

In a meeting on Monday in Tokyo, Hagiuda and Raimondo also decided to set up a new partnership aimed at strengthening industrial competitiveness, supply chains for key components, including semiconductors and those linked to 5G networks, and economic security.

The United States has been levying extra duties of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imports since 2018, when the Trump administration cited potential national security risks under its “America First” foreign and trade policy.

Last month, Washington ended a similar dispute with the European Union, allowing duty-free importation of some European steel and aluminum.

Tokyo has repeatedly sought normalization of steel and aluminum trade while taking no countermeasures, in contrast to the approach adopted by the EU.

Arriving in Tokyo on Tuesday, Tai will head for South Korea on Thursday and India on Sunday, according to the USTR office.

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