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Editorial: Japan, U.S. must iron out differences for mutually beneficial trade relations

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The difference in the positions of Japan and the United States has become clear. In a planned new round of trade negotiations, the two countries must make all-out efforts to study mutually beneficial measures, without being mindful about winning or losing.


In their two days of meetings, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump agreed to create a new framework for discussing trade issues.


The new round of talks will be conducted on a ministerial level, involving Toshimitsu Motegi, minister in charge of economic revitalization, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

As Trump calls for a cut in the trade deficit with Japan, the creation of a new framework can be viewed as wise move that would prevent a conflict of opinions from worsening by keeping trade issues detached from talks between the two leaders.


The problem is that the two countries differ in their expectations about where the trade talks under the new framework should be directed.


Abe encouraged the United States to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, saying the TPP is “best for both Japan and the United States.”


Trump emphasized his intention to not return to the TPP unless it is renegotiated under terms very advantageous to the United States, saying, “I would much prefer a bilateral deal.”


The reason why the United States is sticking to bilateral negotiations must be that it thinks it will be easier to obtain results, such as increased imports of specific items and restraints on exports by its trading partners.


This is the negotiation method the United States repeatedly employed to handle trade friction with Japan in the 1980s. The practice runs counter to the spirit of mutually beneficial free trade promoted under the World Trade Organization, which was inaugurated in 1995.


Japan must push TPP 11


It is unproductive for the United States — a country that has benefited greatly from economic globalization — to step up protectionist moves.


An agreement was not reached during the Abe-Trump summit on whether to exempt Japan from the restrictions on steel and aluminum imports invoked by Washington last month.


Abe had every reason to argue that Japan’s high-quality steel and aluminum products “are greatly contributing to industries and employment in the United States.”


It cannot be overlooked that Trump stated that the treatment of Japan depends on the development of new trade negotiations.


Japan accepting as a bargaining tool such a unilateral step, which lacks legitimacy, by the United States would create future problems.


Washington should promptly retract the import restrictions to also build confidence in the planned new round of negotiations.


Even if the two countries enter talks on concluding a free trade agreement, it is unrealistic for Japan to make concessions to the United States beyond the TPP framework, for which both countries took part in negotiations.


Japan must steadily push ahead with the new TPP deal reached by 11 countries but without the United States. In negotiations based on the new framework, Tokyo will be able to clarify its position.


Approving the TPP in the current Diet session is imperative for giving momentum to its ratification by six or more of the other countries — the condition for the deal to take effect.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2018)

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