TOKYO — Japanese and U.S. negotiators remained at odds in talks for a bilateral trade deal on Saturday, suggesting there will not be even a partial agreement when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump meet next week.
Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s minister for economic and fiscal policy, told reporters he held a “frank discussion” with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Tokyo.
But he added, “The Japanese and U.S. positions remain apart at this point, and we will work to fill that gap.”
The chances of the top trade negotiators for the world’s largest and third-largest economies being able to reach a breakthrough had been seen as slim, as the countries remain at odds over tariffs on agricultural and industrial products.
Motegi said the two countries are not ready to announce any type of substantial agreement after Abe and Trump meet on Monday. He also said that he will not continue talks with Lighthizer on Sunday, but expects to speak to him again soon.
Saturday’s trade talks began after Trump’s arrival in the Japanese capital for a four-day state visit that will make him the first foreign leader to meet newly crowned Emperor Naruhito.
What Trump sees as a trade imbalance between the two allies is expected to top the agenda when he holds an official meeting with Abe on Monday.
The United States is seeking greater access to the Japanese market for products such as beef, pork and wheat, as American farmers have become less competitive following the activation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement including Australia and New Zealand.
Japan has meanwhile pushed for the removal of tariffs on industrial products including automobiles, one of its biggest exports, as had been agreed before the United States withdrew from the TPP.
Trump drew the ire of Japan’s auto industry last week by saying auto imports pose a threat to U.S. national security, but Motegi said the issue did not come up in the meeting with Lighthizer.
“(The national security issue) was not mentioned, explicitly or implicitly,” he said.
Abe and Trump are also slated to play golf and watch sumo together on Sunday before holding a summit.