Japan and US end ministerial talks on trade with no progress

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 ― Japan and the U.S. completed their first ministerial meeting under a new framework on bilateral trade issues, with agreeing to continue talks, though officials offered few details.

The first round of the talks came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the U.S. President Donald Trump agreed in April to set up the new framework to discuss “free, fair and reciprocal (FFR)” trade.

“We had a frank exchange of views and deepened mutual understanding,” Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters after the two-day meeting that ended on Aug. 10.

According to sources, Motegi had a one-on-one meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Robert Lighthizer, for more than two hours on the first day. Matters discussed were autos and agriculture, they said.

But being asked on details of the first day’s discussions, Motegi declined to give any details and said: “I would like to withhold any comments on specific issues at this stage.”

During the meeting, Japan hoped that it would make an agreement, similar to one the EU struck with the U.S. in late July to avoid Section 232 tariffs on auto imports, but apparently Japan failed to make it at the meeting, sources said.

At the same time, Tokyo also came under increasing pressure from the U.S. for greater access to agriculture markets in Japan, with Washington highlighting the same level of market access in the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement, they said.

Japanese farm lobbies are concerned if the government may offer to negotiate a trade deal that would open its agriculture market further to Washington to persuade President Trump not to raise duties on Japanese cars.

The next round of the ministerial meeting is expected to be held in September, when the two leaders are to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

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