Former Chief of Staff to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Jamieson Greer gave an interview to Asahi Shimbun. Greer was involved in the Trump administration’s trade policies until the spring of 2020. On abolishing import duties on automobiles, the foremost issue in phase 2 of trade negotiations between Japan and the U.S., Greer gave the view that the “issue is undoubtedly a priority for Japan, but is very difficult to address.”
As a close aide to USTR Robert Lighthizer, Greer has participated in trade negotiations between the U.S. and China and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in addition to his participation in the Japan-U.S. trade talks.
According to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s understanding on U.S. tariffs on automobiles (2.5% for passenger vehicles) is that the “premise [of phase 2 negotiations] is to abolish” such tariffs. Elimination of tariffs on autos and auto parts was put off in the trade agreement effected in January 2020.
Greer notes, however, that the removal of these tariffs “is very difficult and will test [Japan’s] capacity to realize [such a goal].” Greer says that “President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer both give serious weight to the automobile industry” and that “the U.S. has a trade deficit against Japan in autos and auto parts, and both [President Trump and LIghthizer] are very concerned about the imbalance.”
With respect to the trade agreement that became effective in January 2020, Greer only said that they will “conduct further negotiations on abolishing” tariffs on autos and auto parts. It cannot be said that the U.S. guarantees these tariffs will be abolished.
In the Aug. 25 interview with Asahi Shimbun, Lighthizer said that “Japan’s position is clear in that discussions toward abolishing tariffs should be initiated” and that they will have to “see how the negotiations progress,” without making a clear statement on the issue.