Sun, Dec 23, 2018 - Page 16 News List

US unveils goals for Japan talks

Reuters, WASHINGTON

The White House on Friday laid out objectives for trade talks with Japan, setting the clock for them to begin as early as Jan. 20, as the administration seeks to slash the US’ US$69 billion trade deficit with the world’s third-biggest economy.

According to the document, the US is aiming to secure duty-free market access for US industrial products and reduce, or eliminate, tariffs for US agricultural goods. It might want to negotiate the deal in stages.

Washington is also seeking more equitable trade in the motor vehicle sector and would try to “ensure that Japan avoids manipulating exchange rates to prevent effective balance of payments adjustment or to gain an unfair competitive advantage,” the document said.

October comments by US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin alluding to such a provision sparked concern in Japan that it might give Washington the right to label as currency manipulation any future interventions in the foreign-exchange market by Tokyo.

At a hearing this month on US negotiating objectives for the trade talks, the United Auto Workers union called on US President Donald Trump’s administration to demand strict quotas on Japanese vehicles and parts, with any increases based on the growth of US automotive exports to Japan.

US Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement that he supported opening markets for US goods, but criticized the objectives, saying that they lacked detail and contained a “completely inadequate” approach to trade enforcement.

Trump has roiled international markets by embroiling China in a trade dispute, forcing Canada and Mexico to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement, and pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership early last year.

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