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Editorial: Why Japan-U.S. trade negotiations will not be concluded until after Upper House election

The statement by U.S. President Donald Trump that he anticipates the Japan-U.S. trade negotiations will not be concluded until after the Upper House elections was too blatant and arrogant, wasn’t it? These negotiations will have a major influence on people’s livelihoods, and they should not be used as a campaign issue in the election.


The U.S. objective in the negotiations is clear: With sights set on reducing its huge trade deficit, the U.S. will ask Japan to increase its imports of [U.S.] farm products, to restrict its auto exports to the U.S., and to introduce a currency clause aimed at blocking yen devaluation.


Japan will likely have to lower its tariffs on agricultural product imports, including beef, at least to the level agreed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. In such a case, the government will need to take measures to protect the livelihoods of Japan’s farmers. It is free trade only if the people sacrificed are provided with assistance.


The key focal point [in the negotiations ] is autos. U.S. President Donald Trump has emphasized that increases in car imports pose a “threat to national security.” Moreover, the U.S. strategy is to press Japan to make concessions by threatening to substantially raise tariffs.


There must be many who question this association of [auto imports] with national security. In an unusual move, Toyota Motor Corporation pushed back, saying [its U.S. operations] “are not a national security threat.”


Unlike the 1980s when finished vehicles made up the bulk of exports, the auto industry has globalized. Japanese manufacturers are contributing to the United States by setting up factories there and employing Americans. The export and import of auto parts flow through Japan, the United States, and China among other nations, and the situation is such that the interests of one cannot be separated from those of another.


Strengthening restrictions, including tariff hikes that block the flow of trade, will only be detrimental to the world economy. The President should understand the reality that trade restrictions, which go against the times, will harm his own economy, as well, in the end.


We also want to point out that it appears that the timing of the conclusion of the trade negotiations is being closely tied to the Upper House elections. The outcome of the negotiations will impact the livelihoods of farmers as well as people in the auto industry. Is it not in fact acting in bad faith to aim for an agreement right after the elections?


The President likes to conduct trade negotiations on a bilateral basis in principle. It is a way to demonstrate a difference in power and aim for results in trade that are easy to understand. 


The greatest goal of trade is for the partners to complement each other’s areas of insufficiency through the movement of goods and services and enhance the quality of life of each partner as a result.


The President’s method ignores the functions of trade that humankind has cultivated. Under such circumstances, Japan should continue to keep the flame of free trade alive by negotiating without setting a deadline for resolution.

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