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Aso voices concern over U.S. protectionist policies to Mnuchin

WASHINGTON — Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said he voiced concerns over the U.S. shift toward protectionist trade policies at a meeting Friday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.


Aso called for Japan to be exempted from the stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that Washington rolled out last month, a Finance Ministry official said.


“I told (Mnuchin) it is undesirable that a trend of inward-looking (policies) is about to be created. The United States has caused a considerable impact,” Aso told a press conference after the meeting, held on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Washington.


Mnuchin said in a tweet that they agreed the United States and Japan “are jointly committed to countering illicit financial activity” by North Korea, which is suspected of evading international sanctions over its nuclear and missile development programs.


Finance chiefs from the G-20 major economies ended their two-day meeting Friday, falling short of producing concrete steps to address threats posed by trade disputes to the global economy.


U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized Japan for its trade surplus with the United States, leaving it off a list of allies exempted from the new duties aimed primarily at China. Beijing has responded to the measures with retaliatory action.


The ministry official said Tokyo will continue efforts to gain an exemption and was not considering filing for dispute resolution at the World Trade Organization, as Beijing has done.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was unable to convince Trump to lift the penalties in summit talks earlier this week.


Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, said he and Mnuchin discussed currency moves in passing but did not go into specifics.


“We did not have discussions particularly focused on (foreign exchange policy)”, said Aso.


The Treasury Department last week kept Japan on a list of countries to be monitored for unfair currency manipulation.

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