Japan and the United States are unlikely to open their negotiations on a proposed bilateral trade pact before the end of this month, due chiefly to the prolonged partial U.S. government shutdown, informed sources said Friday.
In addition, it would become difficult for economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who will represent Japan in the new trade talks, to arrange his schedule for the negotiations with the United States, as the country’s parliament will be convened for a 150-day regular session on Monday, the sources said.
The negotiations may not begin before early spring, people familiar with the situation said.
At their meeting in September last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to launch negotiations on concluding a trade pact between their countries.
In a joint statement adopted at the bilateral summit, Abe and Trump said the negotiations will cover “goods” and “other key areas including services, that can produce early achievements.”
On Dec. 21, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced the purpose of the trade talks, paving the way for the bilateral negotiations to be launched late this month.
But the U.S. International Trade Commission has yet to compile a report on its analysis of economic impacts of the envisaged U.S.-Japan trade pact, which would be reported to the Office of the USTR before the opening of the negotiations.
The expected delay in the launch of the Japan-U.S. talks is also because the U.S. government is putting priority on its trade talks with China, sources said, adding that the U.S. government shutdown is believed to have affected operations at the Office of the USTR.
When they meet first in the trade negotiations, Japan and the United States are expected to discuss how to proceed with the talks.
But a Japanese official said that the talks may not be held until April depending on the situation.
With Washington highly likely to make tough demands in the agriculture and automobile sectors, Tokyo is concerned about impacts that the trade talks would have on an election in summer for the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Japanese parliament, in case the negotiations kick into full gear just before the triennial election, some sources said.