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Japan, U.S. at odds over auto, farm tariffs, no talks on quotas

WASHINGTON — Japan and the United States on Tuesday remained at odds over tariff cuts on automobiles and agricultural products as part of a bilateral trade deal, according to a Japanese official.


The United States did not refer to quotas restraining Japanese auto exports to the country, the official told reporters after a meeting in Washington.


Officials from the two governments met to lay the groundwork for a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump next Monday in Tokyo.


Bilateral trade and policy toward North Korea are likely to top the agenda in the summit, which is part of Trump’s four-day state visit to Japan starting Saturday.


In Tuesday’s meeting, the United States pushed Japan to cut tariffs on American farm products as early as possible, the Japanese official said.


American farmers and ranchers are demanding the administration level the playing field because they have started losing market share in Japan following the recent enforcement of a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership — an 11-member free trade agreement including Japan and farming nations such as Australia and Canada — and an FTA between Japan and the European Union.


Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP in 2017, given his preference for bilateral trade deals.


On Tuesday, Tokyo said it would slash duties on U.S. farm products to TPP levels on condition that Washington remove tariffs on all industrial goods, including a 2.5 percent tariff on Japanese cars.


Japan levies no tax on imported vehicles.


The Japanese official quoted Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeff Gerrish, who attended the meeting, as saying the two sides see a considerable gap in their views, but that it was meaningful to understand each other’s positions.


The two sides did not discuss a six-month window Trump set last week to negotiate with Japan, the European Union and other U.S. trading partners to address what the administration called “the threatened impairment of national security” over automobile and vehicle parts imports, according to the official.


Japanese economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer plan to meet or speak by phone ahead of the summit, the official said.


In a meeting last month, Abe and Trump agreed to aim for a swift conclusion of negotiations for a bilateral trade pact. Motegi and Lighthizer launched the talks in April.


The Trump administration regards the deal as a tool to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Japan.

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