Japan, the United States and the European Union agreed Wednesday to speed up efforts to curb industrial subsidies and forced technology transfers, apparently taking aim at China’s nonmarket-oriented policies and practices.
Trade ministers from the three parties instructed their staff to finalize trilateral text-based work on industrial subsidies by spring so as to get other major economies engaged in the initiative, they said in a joint statement issued after a meeting in Washington.
The ministers also pledged to strengthen cooperation in reining in forced technology transfers through export controls, the development of new rules and investment review for national security purposes, the statement said.
“The ministers advanced discussions on their shared objective to address nonmarket-oriented policies and practices of third countries that lead to severe overcapacity, create unfair competitive conditions for their workers and businesses, hinder the development and use of innovative technologies, and undermine the proper functioning of international trade, including where existing rules are not effective,” it said.
They agreed to take the lead in promoting digital trade and reforming the World Trade Organization — issues Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said he will take up when he presides over a Group of 20 ministerial meeting on trade and the digital economy slated for June 8-9 in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.
The trilateral meeting also brought together U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom.
“The ministers reaffirmed the importance of cooperating in facilitating digital trade and the growth of the digital economy and to enhance business environments through the promotion of data security,” the statement said.
As part of efforts to promote digital trade, the three parties aim to build consensus with other like-minded countries during annual meetings of the World Economic Forum later this month in Davos, Switzerland, over rules on electronic commerce, Seko told reporters.
Referring to the G-20 ministerial meeting, Seko said, “I would like the gathering to issue a message that (the members) will uphold free trade and the multilateral trading system amid the rise of protectionism.”
In a bilateral meeting ahead of the trilateral session, Seko and Malmstrom welcomed the planned enforcement of a free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union on Feb. 1, a deal Malmstrom said is the largest FTA ever for the 28-nation bloc.
In a separate meeting, Seko and Lighthizer did not discuss a proposed trade agreement between Japan and the United States, according to the Japanese minister.