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U.S. calls to launch negotiations for FTA with Japan

Posted October. 18, 2017 07:34,   

Updated October. 18, 2017 08:21


Washington has officially called for negotiations for U.S.-Japan free trade agreement. According to Japanese news media outlets, including Kyodo News, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence expressed a "strong interest" in bilateral free trade agreement with Japan and practically requested opening of negotiations during the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue, which took place on Monday in Washington, between Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and the vice president.

Citing a Japanese government official, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that Pence referred to "a free and fair trading relationship between our two nations” and Aso explained the significance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the meeting.

The joint press release issued after the dialogue, however, did not say anything regarding free trade agreement. Tokyo has been reluctant to sign a bilateral trade deal with Washington out of concerns that the United States may put pressure on Japan to open up more of the Japanese auto and agricultural markets. "There is a possibility that an issue of bilateral trade agreement may be put on the list of agendas when U.S. President Donald Trump makes his visit to Japan next month for a dialogue," the Japanese economic daily said.

Trump has been reiterating his administration's policy to maximize U.S. profits in bilateral framework rather than multilateral trade deals. He has been denouncing the 2016 trade deficit of 70 billion dollars to Japan since his inauguration.

In its attempt to appease Washington, Tokyo made a promise at the dialogue to lower its non-tariff barrier by cutting down the frequency of noise and exhaust gas inspections for automobiles with an annual import volume of 5,000 units or less, taking into account the fact that 70 percent of the U.S. trade deficit to Japan comes from the automobile sector.

Won-Jae Jang peacechaos@donga.com