Sun, Apr 15, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Japan to suggest trade plan to US

Reuters, TOKYO

Japan is to propose setting up a framework to discuss trade issues with the US in a summit next week, in the hopes of persuading it to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Nikkei newspaper said yesterday.

However, the move could backfire, as US President Donald Trump could demand renegotiating terms for the pact or talks for a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) — both outcomes Japan wants to avoid.

Trump unexpectedly on Thursday indicated that the US might rejoin the landmark TPP, but only if it offered “substantially better” terms than those provided after previous negotiations.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to make the proposal when he meets Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida resort, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the newspaper said.

Japanese Minister of the Economy Toshimitsu Motegi is likely to lead the Japanese delegation, with his counterpart likely to be US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the newspaper said, without citing sources.

The framework would be separate from a bilateral economic dialogue, set up by Abe and Trump last year and led by their deputies, which covers issues including trade, infrastructure and technical aid.

The dialogue had so far yielded little, with some analysts saying Japan has used it to broaden the agenda and diffuse direct US pressure for a two-way FTA.

A senior government official did not confirm the report, but said Abe wants Motegi to accompany him to the US to address trade issues, although this would depend on the situation in the Japanese parliament, where the government faces criticism over suspected cronyism scandals.

Japanese officials are bracing for Trump to get tough in trade talks at the summit and are particularly anxious that he could target Abe’s weak-yen policies.

Trump late on Thursday tweeted that the US is working to make a deal with Japan, “who has hit us hard on trade for years!”

During the summit, Abe is likely to explain to Trump Japan’s plans to boost direct investment to the US, the Asahi newspaper said yesterday.

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