US President Donald Trump on Monday said that the US had reached an initial agreement on tariffs with Japan, after often claiming that Tokyo has had an unfair advantage in bilateral trade.
Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month said the deal was close to being completed, and that they hoped for a formal signing during the UN General Assembly later this month.
“I am pleased to report that my Administration has reached an initial trade agreement regarding tariff barriers ... with Japan,” Trump said in a letter to US Congress released by the White House.
“I intend to enter into the agreement in the coming weeks,” he wrote.
Trump added that further negotiations would be held with Japan to secure “a comprehensive trade agreement that results in more fair and reciprocal trade.”
The statement said that an agreement had also been reached on digital trade, but it gave no details about US tariffs on Japanese vehicles.
US officials have previously said the tariff agreement would benefit US farmers hit by the US-China trade dispute and who are an important group of voters for Trump’s re-election bid next year.
Officials in Japan appear wary over the prospects for a trade deal with the US after Trump said he was prepared to sign a pact soon.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday said that the two sides were still finalizing details after reaching a basic agreement late last month on trade in farm products, digital trade and other industries.
Suga said Trump and Abe are considering signing a deal late this month when they attend the UN General Assembly in New York.
“We are accelerating the work that still remains, but I decline to comment further because we have not reached a formal agreement,” Suga said.
Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi, who negotiated the deal as minister of economy, trade and industry, said Tokyo must watch carefully to prevent Washington from forcing any last-minute changes, Kyodo News agency reported.
Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Taku Eto cautioned against letting down Tokyo’s guard until the final agreement is reached, it said.
Japanese Minister of Finance Taro Aso yesterday said that a currency provision would not be included in the trade deal.
When asked about the prospects for a deal, Aso told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that “it is right” to assume that the currency provision, which is aimed at preventing competitive devaluation, would not be included.
Currencies are a touchy issue for Japan because it has been criticized for keeping the yen weak with massive monetary easing.
Additional reporting by AP and Reuters
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