WASHINGTON/TOKYO • Japan and the United States have deepened their understanding of each other's positions on trade, Japan's Economy Minister said after meeting his US counterpart, adding that the two countries will likely meet again ahead of a Group of 20 (G-20) summit later this month.
After Thursday's meeting in Washington, Mr Toshimitsu Motegi said he exchanged views on trade "candidly" with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, but refrained from commenting on details.
"Japan and the US have been sorting out points of discussion over trade issues and those points are clarifying but we need to continue ministerial talks," Mr Motegi said.
"We will coordinate a meeting with (Mr) Lighthizer, probably in Osaka ahead of G-20 summit late this month."
Mr Motegi said Japan and the US have already agreed to aim for an early trade deal after Japan's Upper House election, likely to be held next month.
Trade issues are seen as among key topics of debate during US President Donald Trump's expected meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, western Japan, on June 28-29.
President (Donald Trump) would have preferred to have seen something done last year. Let me be clear... we're way behind schedule from this standpoint.
US AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN WILLIAM HAGERTY, on a US-Japan trade deal.
Mr Trump has pressured Tokyo to speed up talks for a two-way trade deal that would open up the Japanese market for US goods, particularly in areas of agriculture, and fix what he sees as a huge bilateral trade imbalance.
In an interview with The Japan Times, US Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty said Mr Trump was "frustrated" by the fact that the US and Japan have yet to seal a trade deal.
"The President would have preferred to have seen something done last year. Let me be clear... we're way behind schedule from this standpoint," he was quoted as saying in the interview conducted on Tuesday and published yesterday.
Japan's ruling party officials have signalled their hopes of holding off on signing a deal that could require concessions on agriculture at least until the summer Upper House election, for fear of losing farmers' votes.
Responding to a journalist's question, Mr Motegi said Japan has been requesting that Washington cut its tariffs on industrial products.
Washington wants Tokyo to cut tariffs on US farm products to restore their competitiveness after Mr Trump shunned an 11-nation Pacific trade pact.
Japan has stressed the two countries had previously agreed that market access steps, or tariff cuts, for farm goods would not exceed those of Tokyo's other deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.