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Japan-U.S. FTA low priority for Trump during Japan visit: U.S. expert

By Matthew Goodman, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Interviewed by Daisuke Igarashi

 

President Donald Trump will probably not discuss any contentious issues between the U.S. and Japan during his visit. It is believed that while market liberalization for agricultural products and autos will be discussed in the economic field, I do not think Trump will make a strong demand for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan.

 

There were reports after the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue between Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence in October that the U.S. has a strong interest in a Japan-U.S. FTA. Yet from what I have heard, although Pence touched on the bilateral FTA, he did not make a strong demand. This FTA is a subject of long-term interest for the U.S., but America will not work on this immediately.

 

The U.S.’s top priority is the renegotiation of NAFTA. This is a very complex negotiation process, so it will not have the bandwidth to deal with another major FTA right now.

 

Trump’s trade policies so far have not been as radical as what his statements would indicate, except for the withdrawal from the TPP. However, there are still causes for concern, such as the investigation of China’s violation of intellectual property rights under Section 301 of the Trade Act.

 

The biggest problem with the Trump administration’s trade policies is that they result in unpredictability. The impact of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the TPP still lingers in Asia.

 

The other TPP nations are aiming at reaching a basic agreement without the U.S. at the APEC Summit in Vietnam, which Trump will attend. At this forum past U.S. presidents have made speeches on the importance of U.S. engagement with Asia-Pacific. While Trump will probably emphasize bilateral trade agreements, I hope that he will also make positive statements on the importance of regional economic integration.

 

I met with an ASEAN delegation in Singapore recently. There was growing concern about the vacuum in U.S. policy on Asia. The Trump administration will have to answer many questions if it wants to reassure them.

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