Japan hopes to persuade US to rejoin TPP, newspaper says

US President Donald Trump asked his team to reopen negotiations to rejoin the Trans Pacific Partnership, but he wants a better deal.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make the proposal when he meets US President Donald Trump's Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, the paper said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make the proposal when he meets US President Donald Trump's Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, the paper said.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO • Japan will propose setting up a new framework to discuss trade issues with the United States in a summit next week, in hopes of persuading it to rejoin the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Nikkei newspaper said yesterday.

But 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.

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

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make the proposal when he meets Mr Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the President's Florida resort, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the paper said.

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

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

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

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 media report, but said Mr Abe wanted Mr Motegi to accompany him to the US to address trade issues, though this would depend on the situation in Parliament, where the government faces criticism over suspected cronyism scandals.

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

In his post on Twitter late on Thursday, Mr Trump said the US was working to make a deal with Japan, "who has hit us hard on trade for years!"

The Trump administration again refrained from naming any major trading partners as currency manipulators, but kept Japan on its monitoring list in a currency report.

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

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 15, 2018, with the headline 'Japan hopes to persuade US to rejoin TPP, newspaper says'. Print Edition | Subscribe