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Japan rejects idea of US free-trade deal to fix imbalance

TOKYO — Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday that trade imbalances with the United States should be addressed through U.S.-Japan economic dialogue, rather than through a bilateral free-trade agreement.


“It is true that the United States runs trade deficits with Japan. But a bilateral FTA won’t be the way to address this issue,” said Aso, who is also deputy prime minister.


The bilateral economic dialogue was launched this year to address trade issues following the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade initiative, which includes Japan. The bilateral dialogue is chaired by Aso and by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.


Aso made the remark after U.S. President Donald Trump said in Tokyo on Monday that trade with Japan was not free or reciprocal.


“We want free and reciprocal trade, but right now, our trade with Japan is not free and it’s not reciprocal,” he said in a meeting with U.S. and Japanese business leaders.


“The U.S. has suffered massive trade deficits with Japan for many, many years, almost $70 billion annually. Many millions of cars are sold by Japan into the United States, whereas virtually no cars go from the U.S. into Japan,” he added.


Abe told Trump in a summit meeting Monday that Japan accounts for less than 10% of the U.S. trade deficit, compared with more than 60% in the past. He also argued that trade deficits should be examined on a multilateral basis, rather than on a bilateral basis.


Aso sounded more receptive to the proposal put forward Monday by Trump that Japan buy more U.S. military hardware as a way to reduce its trade surplus with the U.S.


Upgrading Japan’s weapons system “will have an important meaning for Japan’s national security, especially in the face of growing threats from North Korea,” Aso said.

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