Japan, U.S. remain apart in working-level trade talks

Jiji PressWASHINGTON (Jiji Press) — Japan and the United States remained apart in working-level talks on a proposed bilateral trade pact that were held in Washington for two days through Tuesday.

Officials from the two countries exchanged opinions on automotive tariffs and other contentious topics but were unable to bridge gaps, according to informed sources.

The two sides will continue to work on sorting out the points for discussions, including through adjustments by chief negotiators, in the run-up to Thursday’s ministerial talks.

Since Japan and the United States entered into trade negotiations in April, it was the first time that working-level officials had discussions from technical perspectives.

The participants, including bureau-chief-level officials from Japan’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, checked the two countries’ tariff rates and trade volumes for some 9,300 items of goods, to lay the groundwork for ministerial negotiations, the sources said.

They left a majority of tariff abolition and other requests to be officially made in the upcoming talks between Toshimitsu Motegi, minister in charge of the bilateral trade talks, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, set to be held also in Washington.

“Although what we did was mostly fact-checking, we believe the discussions were meaningful,” Kazuhisa Shibuya, policy coordinator at the Japanese government’s headquarters for the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact and other trade deals, told reporters. He played a coordinating role in the working-level talks.

In the talks, the United States indicated a policy to seek early opening of Japanese markets of agricultural and livestock products such as beef and pork, while maintaining a cautious stance on the abolition of its tariffs on Japanese automobiles and auto parts.

On the other hand, Japan, hoping to expand its exports of industrial products, aims to have the automotive and farm issues settled all together.

In their meeting in May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to accelerate the trade talks. While Trump expressed his eagerness to announce some kind of achievement after the House of Councillors election this summer, no in-depth discussions on the handling of tariffs have yet to be held at the ministerial level.Speech

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