U.S. President Donald Trumps administration plans to start
negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement with Japan in
mid-January, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified
Congress on Tuesday.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Lighthizer suggested the
administration will push Japan to address both tariff and nontariff
barriers in sectors such as automobiles and agriculture, and to
achieve fairer, more balanced trade.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
We intend to initiate negotiations with Japan as soon as
practicable, but no earlier than 90 days from the date of this
notice, he wrote.
Citing the $68.9 billion U.S. trade deficit in goods with Japan
in 2017, Lighthizer said, U.S. exporters in key sectors such as
automobiles, agriculture and services have been challenged by
multiple tariff and nontariff barriers for decades, leading to
chronic U.S. trade imbalances with Japan.
In a meeting last month in New York, Trump and Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to start negotiations for a trade
agreement on goods, or TAG, between the two countries.
The move is a concession by Tokyo, which dropped its earlier
insistence on a multilateral approach to trade issues.
Senior U.S. officials have thrown hardballs even before the
start of the trade talks, with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
indicating the United States will push Japan to reduce tariffs on
farm products beyond levels agreed to under a free trade agreement
between Japan and the European Union.
Perdues call for better terms in a trade deal with Japan than
the Japan-EU FTA came despite the understanding between Trump and
Abe that Washington would not demand deeper farm tariff cuts than
levels Japan has agreed in other trade pacts, also including the
Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member regional FTA.
Vice President Mike Pence has described the prospective deal
with Japan as a free trade agreement, contradicting Japans
assertion that the bilateral accord sought by the two governments
will not be as comprehensive as an FTA.
The two governments are arranging a meeting between Pence and
Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso in mid-November in Japan to
pave the way for the upcoming trade negotiations involving
Lighthizer and Toshimitsu Motegi, Japans economic revitalization
Also on Tuesday, Lighthizer notified Congress that the
administration intends to initiate negotiations for a trade
agreement with the European Union in mid-January, and for a
separate pact with Britain as soon as it is ready after it