Japan and the United States are eager to strike a two-way trade agreement and both the countries would begin working-level meetings with greater intensity starting early next month as agreed between the two sides, said the Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
There was meeting on the sidelines of a G20 summit of world leaders in Osaka between Motegi and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and and the agreement was reached after the that meeting between the largest and third biggest economies of the world.
While coming to an agreement on the speeding up of the talks on trade, the two leaders also came to an agreement that the alliance between the two countries was stronger than ever, said a Japanese government official to reporters at the meeting venue according to reports.
However, while the prospects of a two-way deal became brighter between the US and Japan, there were also concerns expressed form some quarters that this acceleration of the trade negotiations would put Japan under pressure from the US and it could ultimately conceded to US demands of opening up of its markets – specifically its agriculture markets which are heavily protected such as those for beef and rice
“We share understanding of each other’s thinking and stance and where our gap lies. Based on that, we are discussing ways to narrow our differences,” Motegi told reporters, but did not elaborate any further.
Both the sides however also confirmed that agriculture and industrial goods were the focus of the outcome of working-level meetings during the last two weeks. Motegi added that there were no discussions about the timing for conclusion of a possible deal between them.
Japan is to hold elections for its upper house next month and according to analysts and experts, it is highly unlikely that the two side would be able to arrive at a conclusive trade agreement before that. This is because one of the crucial pillars of support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party are the farmers and a concession on agriculture to the US could harm the election prospects, say analysts.
A pledge since his election campaign of resolving the so called unfair trade imbalances with trading partners has been made by US President Donald Trump and has created the “America First” protectionism agenda for this purpose.
As a strategy to pressurize Japan to quickly concede to a trade agreement, Trump has already threatened to impose higher tariffs on cars imported into the US which would include vehicles that come to the country from Japan. The pretext proposed by Trump for such tariffs is that such imported cars pose a national security threat to America.
A trade war is currently ongoing between the US and China which has seen high tariffs being imposed on imported goods from both countries worth billions of dollars.
(Adapted from NYTimes.com)
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