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U.S. eager to form trade deal with Japan “at some point”: USTR

WASHINGTON — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday expressed eagerness to strike a free trade agreement with Japan “at some point.””We think we got to have a free trade agreement with Japan and hopefully we get to that stage at some point,” Lighthizer said at a business forum in Washington.


He indicated that during new bilateral trade talks, the two governments will discuss Japan’s request that Washington exempt Tokyo from new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.


The two governments are expected to hold the first round of ministerial talks on trade and investment — which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to launch during their meeting last month in Florida — around mid-June.


The Trump administration is “actively considering” formulating bilateral trade deals with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Lighthizer.


Japan, however, has been reluctant to pursue a bilateral trade deal with the United States, saying the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional FTA from which Trump withdrew the United States last year, is the best trade deal for two countries.


Lighthizer repeated Trump’s view that he will consider rejoining the TPP, currently involving Japan and 10 other member nations, if the United States is able to negotiate a “substantially better” agreement.


Speaking on U.S. business news network CNBC, meanwhile, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross called the TPP “a flawed deal.”


“It was not particularly a pro-U.S. arrangement, in our view. Some parts were okay, but a lot of the parts were not,” Ross said.


Ross stressed that withdrawal from the TPP does not mean Trump has pulled back from Asia.


He dismissed the possibility of Washington returning to the TPP in the near future. “It’s not something that’s going to be done today or tomorrow,” he said.


In March, the remaining TPP member nations signed the renamed Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the United States.


The 11 members of the renegotiated CPTPP are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

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