US Vice President shows interest in trade talks with Japan

TOKYO, Oct. 18 — The United States has reiterated a strong interest in pursuing a new bilateral trade agreement with Japan during a high-level meeting, according to informed sources.

Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso met U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in the second round of Japan-the U.S. Economic Dialogue that took place on Oct. 16 in Washington, DC.

During the meeting, they made some progress on bilateral trade issues, including the lifting of restrictions on Japanese persimmon and on U.S. potatoes from Idaho.

Tokyo also agreed to streamline testing procedures for American automobile exports.

“Both sides affirmed that they would intensify work to achieve further progress in the near term on bilateral trade issues,” the two governments said in a joint statement after the meeting.

It didn’t mention a new trade agreement between the two countries.

But sources said during the meeting Pence expressed a strong interest to begin formal negotiations for a free trade agreement.

Aso didn’t commit to a bilateral trade deal as a result of the new dialogue with the U.S. Instead, he sought to persuade Pence to bring the U.S. back to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the meeting.

That could provide a way for U.S. President Donald Trump to reinforce his demands to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when they meet in Japan in earlier November.

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