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Japan, China affirm importance of free trade amid friction with U.S.

  • April 16, 2018
  • , Kyodo News , 6:46 p.m.
  • English Press

Japan and China agreed Monday on the importance of the global free trade system amid escalating trade friction between China and the United States.


“We share the recognition that bringing on a trade war would have a huge impact on the prosperity of the global economy,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters after a high-level bilateral economic dialogue in Tokyo.


China’s Foreign Ministry quoted State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying in the dialogue that Japan and China “should jointly oppose trade protectionism and preserve the multilateral trade system.


A recent thaw in bilateral relations prompted Japan and China to return to the dialogue framework after a roughly eight-year hiatus.


Kono, who led the Japanese side in the talks, said Japan had said something needs to be done about China’s overproduction of steel, and asked it to join international frameworks for the free and fair transfer of technology while ensuring the protection of intellectual property.


The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has cited both of the issues as driving its new tariffs on imports of various Chinese products and commodities.


The tariffs and China’s retaliatory action have prompted worldwide concern over a trade war.


Although primarily aimed at China, the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports rolled out last month also apply to Japan.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to repeat Japan’s call for an exemption like those granted to other U.S. allies when he holds talks with Trump in Florida later this week.


Kono said the Japanese and Chinese officials discussed their countries’ visions for development across the Indo-Pacific region — Japan’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy and China’s “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure megaproject.


Wang said at the outset of the talks that China hopes to “deepen dialogue” with Japan about working together on the Chinese project.


Kono said Japan told China it is willing to “cooperate on a case-by-case basis” with projects that meet international standards regarding transparency, openness, feasibility, the fiscal soundness of the countries that accept financing, and environmental and social considerations.


According to Japanese officials, the Chinese side replied that Beijing is of the same mind as Japan on the importance of international standards.


Kono said both sides shared a recognition of the importance of speeding up talks on both a bilateral free trade deal and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership multilateral deal in order to unify the East Asian economic area.


The RCEP negotiations bring Japan and China together with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as Australia, India, New Zealand and South Korea.


Kono also said the officials agreed the next round of the economic dialogue should be held in China, possibly next year.


The talks were held in 2007, 2009 and 2010 before the hiatus was prompted by a chill in bilateral relations, primarily over China’s activities in the East China Sea and its challenge to Japan’s sovereignty over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands.


The two countries are now trying to rebuild and expand economic cooperation in tandem with the recent improvement in diplomatic relations, spurred by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s bolstering of his domestic power base since late last year.


The Japanese contingent at the economic dialogue included Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, while Commerce Minister Zhong Shan and Finance Minister Liu Kun were among the Chinese officials.


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of a peace and friendship treaty between Japan and China.


During separate talks on Monday, Finance Minister Taro Aso and his Chinese counterpart Liu recognized the importance of promoting exchanges between the two countries’ financial authorities.


Aso and Liu agreed to step up preparations for the next round of bilateral dialogue between finance officials that China is scheduled to host this year, a Japanese official said.

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