Japan, US trade ministers may meet after Diet ends on June 20

TOKYO, April 25 — Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his U.S. counterpart, Robert Lighthizer, may hold the first ministerial meeting after the current session in Japan’s parliament, the Diet, ends June 20.

“We have indicated to the U.S. that the meeting is likely to take place in late June and after,” Motegi said at an April 24 press conference.

His comment came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the U.S. President Donald Trump announced at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s resort club in Florida, that they will start talks on “free, fair and reciprocal trade deals.”

They also said that Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will head up the new trade talks, reporting to Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

But the announcement has left many questions unanswered, including what type of trade deals the two countries would work on.

Motegi, asked about the nature of talks, said: “It is not considered as negotiations for a new bilateral free trade agreement.”

Japan desperately wants to pass legislation of a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), also known as TPP-11, in the current parliamentary session, so that it can explain the benefits the pact again, and maybe convince the U.S. to come back.

Tokyo now fears that Washington may ratchet up pressure for further market access beyond the concessions it made as part of the original TPP, aiming to appeal to voters ahead of November’s mid-term U.S. congressional elections.

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