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Trade white paper carefully sidesteps Japan-U.S. trade friction

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) released its White Paper on International Economy and Trade 2018 on July 10. The report comments on the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policies, pointing out that the U.S. is “aggressively invoking trade laws and international enforcement measures.” However, it takes care to sidestep bilateral friction, saying that Japan and the U.S. have a “basically cooperative” economic relationship.


The white paper notes that the U.S. has imposed steep tariffs on steel and aluminum products based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act. In terms of Japan’s response, it merely mentions METI Minister Hiroshige Seko’s remark that this was “extremely regrettable.” It does not touch on the Trump administration’s announcement in May of its plan to slap additional tariffs on imported cars.


Analysis of the situation in China stands out. The report estimates that the scale of its e-commerce market will expand fourfold from $236 billion in 2014 to $994 billion in 2020. It also points out that China leads the world both in market size and growth rate.


The white paper also points to the increasing controls on the free flow of data across national boundaries, with China in mind. It estimates that some countries may see their GDPs pushed down by 0.7-1.7% if such restrictions are expanded further.


The report asserts that overproduction of steel and other products in China “may also occur in other industries in the future.” It voices concern that moves similar to the steel industry can be observed in the semiconductor industry.

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