Japan-US trade talks extended in bid for agreement

In a picture taken on Aug 1, 2019, Japanese Minister of Economic Revitalization Toshimitsu Motegi and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer meet prior to trade negotiations at the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, DC
In a picture taken on Aug 1, 2019, Japanese Minister of Economic Revitalization Toshimitsu Motegi and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer meet prior to trade negotiations at the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • Top negotiators for Japan and the United States on Thursday failed to reach an agreement on a two-way trade deal and decided to extend talks for another day in a last-ditch effort to bring tangibles to a weekend bilateral summit.

After marathon four-hour talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday, Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters that the two countries were "getting closer" to reaching "a conclusion".

But he added that negotiations were taking time because they involved details covering a wide range of areas that directly affect both countries' national interests.

Mr Motegi said that he would meet Mr Lighthizer again yesterday.

Mr Motegi is visiting Washington for talks with Mr Lighthizer, where the two sides hope to narrow gaps on areas such as agriculture and automobiles in order to clinch an early bilateral deal.

Thursday's talks followed a 51/2-hour meeting on Wednesday, suggesting negotiators were making last-minute efforts to reach some agreement when Japanese and US leaders meet on the sidelines of a weekend Group of Seven summit in France this weekend.

Mr Motegi said he will fly straight to France and may join the meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump, where the two will likely discuss trade, among other topics.

When asked whether the bilateral summit could reach a conclusion on trade, Mr Motegi said: "We'll see what we can do (in talks) tomorrow."

Under his "America First" policy, Mr Trump has been urging Japan and other trading partners to take steps to fix what he sees as unfair trade imbalances with the US.

 
 

During his visit to France, Mr Trump will talk to his counterparts about how to open up their markets to ensure US businesses have avenues to sell good and services.

While separate trade talks with China and Europe have made little headway, Mr Trump is keen to clinch an early deal with Japan that would open up its politically sensitive agriculture sector, as well as curbing Japan's US-bound auto exports.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2019, with the headline 'Japan-US trade talks extended in bid for agreement'. Print Edition | Subscribe