All national papers reported on yesterday’s meetings in Tokyo between visiting USTR Tai and Trade Minister Hagiuda and Foreign Minister Hayashi at which the two sides agreed to set up early next year the “U.S.-Japan Partnership on Trade,” a taskforce led by officials with the rank of assistant secretary that will be charged with discussing bilateral trade cooperation with China’s growing presence in mind. In response to Hagiuda’s remark that the two countries and their partners should coordinate closely to build a free and fair economic order, the top U.S. trade official said: “Our close collaboration will support the Biden administration’s economic framework for the Indo-Pacific and help create sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and competitive trade policies.” The framework will discuss measures to address “third country concerns,” deal with issues related to labor and the environment, promote digital trade, and make supply chains more resilient. According to a Japanese readout, the venue is not for the purpose of discussing trade disputes such as U.S. duties on Japanese auto imports. Asahi claimed that Japan’s plan to seek the removal of auto tariffs has effectively been “frozen.”
Asahi also said Tokyo views the new framework as a venue for encouraging Washington to return to the TPP, adding that USTR Tai remained noncommittal on Hayashi’s call for the Biden administration to rejoin the regional free trade initiative. The paper said the GOJ’s trade policy toward the United States may become stalled as the Democratic administration is unlikely to return to the TPP and Japan’s goal of having the 2.5% U.S. tariffs on Japanese cars and auto components removed is likely to remain elusive. The daily also highlighted in a separate piece the U.S. official’s reference to “the Biden administration’s economic framework for the Indo-Pacific,” interpreting it as an effort by Washington to continue to engage with the region without joining the TPP.
Mainichi added that the United States, Japan, and the EU released a joint statement on Wednesday aimed at expanding trilateral cooperation for promoting global free trade.