All papers reported over the weekend that Finance Minister Aso met with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin in Washington on Friday on the margins of the G20 ministerial meeting and conveyed concern about the “protectionist” approach being taken by the Trump administration. The Japanese official reportedly said: “It is not desirable that an inward-looking trend is developing in the United States.” He also urged his U.S. counterpart to exempt Japanese products from the new metal tariffs. Sankei projected that the Trump administration will use the steel tariff as a bargaining tool to push Japan to make concessions on other trade areas, such as beef and autos.
In a related development, Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei reported today on press remarks on Saturday by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, who emphasized that the Trump administration intends to pursue an FTA with Japan. The Treasury chief reportedly disclosed that during his meeting with Finance Minister Aso a day earlier, he said: “We would like to begin bilateral talks to make U.S.-Japan trade free, fair, and reciprocal.”