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U.S. urges Japan to cut tariffs for farm goods

NIIGATA, Japan — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Saturday after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart Takamori Yoshikawa that he is eager to reduce his country’s large trade deficit with Japan, in the latest push to seek the removal of tariffs on American farm products.


The two met on the sidelines of a Group of 20 gathering of farm ministers chaired by Japan. Japan and the United States began bilateral trade negotiations in mid-April, with Washington seeking to improve the competitiveness of U.S. produce at a time when Pacific free trade pact members are exporting to Japan at lower tariff rates.


“We have and had a long and sustained trade deficit with Japan to the tune of $70 billion, which indicates to me we’ve been very good, good customers for Japan for many years,” Perdue told reporters, adding that the United States simply wants “to be treated as a good customer with a reciprocal type of treatment regarding the things that we export.”


Yoshikawa emphasized at the outset of the meeting held in Niigata, northwest of Tokyo, that Japan is an important export destination to the United States and that it views the country as a stable supplier of farm products.


Perdue has earlier expressed his desire for a quick agreement with Japan, the fourth largest U.S. trade partner, on tariff cuts for farm goods as part of efforts to reach a bilateral trade deal. Tokyo, however, has shown little enthusiasm for the proposal.


The trade negotiations are taking place between Japanese economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.


Perdue told reporters the prospects of the talks are “hopeful” and that the two countries “should be able to come together and conclude these negotiations in a very mutually beneficial way.”


U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which went into force in December with the remaining 11 members that include Japan and major agricultural producers such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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