Japan Foreign Minister Aso brings little home after G-20 meet amid calls to resign

(From left) International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda and Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso pose for a group photo of G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Washington, DC, on April 20,
(From left) International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda and Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso pose for a group photo of G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Washington, DC, on April 20, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso won't have an easy homecoming.

After he flies back from Washington, Mr Aso is likely to face further media questions and calls for his resignation amid a string of scandals at the Finance Ministry.

In Washington, he said he's not considering stepping down, but a political backlash could intensify given Mr Aso attended his first G-20 gathering in a year despite failing to get Parliament's approval.

Mr Aso is bringing little tangible diplomatic progress after his criticism of protectionism in his meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed clear differences on trade policy between the two nations.

He didn't get an exemption from US tariffs on metals, either.

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's meeting with US President Donald Trump also highlighted their differences on trade.

"No progress was made and we simply confirmed the US wants to pursue a bilateral channel," Mr Masaki Kuwahara, a Tokyo-based senior economist at Nomura Securities Co, said on Saturday (April 21) in a phone interview. "The political situation for the Abe administration is worsening and I think the current political chaos will continue."

 
 
 
 

The US aims to pursue bilateral negotiations to fix trade imbalances with other nations, while Japan prefers a multilateral pact and hopes the US will rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Mr Trump has sent mixed messages about the TPP.

"Trump doesn't like the name of TPP and such framework itself, and so his approach is clearly different," Mr Aso told reporters on Friday in Washington after attending the G-20 meeting.

Mr Aso, who is in charge of Japan's currency policy, said he and Mr Mnuchin discussed foreign exchange in the context of the global economy.

Earlier in the week in Washington, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who also attended the G-20 gathering, warned against trade protectionism, saying that it won't be good for the world economy.

Mr Kuroda, whose new term started this month, will be chairing the central bank's monetary policy meeting on April 26-27 with his new deputies.