Morning Alert   -   Friday, September 28, 2018
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Morning news

Most networks gave top play to reports on powerful Typhoon Trami, which may travel up the Japanese archipelago over the weekend. TBS continued to lead with updates on the resignation of sumo stablemaster Takanohana.

All national dailies led with reports on the U.S.-Japan summit held in New York on Wednesday, during which the two nations agreed to enter into negotiations on a Trade Agreement on Goods (TAG).


U.S., Japan agree to enter bilateral tariff talks

All national dailies gave top play to the summit meeting held between President Trump and Prime Minister Abe on Wednesday in New York, during which the two leaders agreed that the United States and Japan will enter into bilateral negotiations on a Trade Agreement on Goods (TAG). The papers speculated that the two nations will begin the talks at the beginning of next year or later. Yomiuri wrote that the U.S. and Japanese governments are making arrangements for USTR Lighthizer and Economic Revitalization Minister Motegi to hold preparatory talks on the TAG negotiations in November.

Asahi speculated that although Japan had tried to put off responding to the United States' demand to hold bilateral trade negotiations by proposing the ministerial talks on "free, fair, and reciprocal" trade as a new negotiation framework, it was eventually forced to agree to enter TAG talks following Washington's announcement in May on the possibility of imposing high tariffs on auto imports. The paper also claimed that although Abe stressed at a post-summit press conference that the TAG talks are "different from comprehensive FTA negations," there is no difference between the two frameworks in reality. The paper noted that although Abe told the press on Wednesday that he "confirmed" with the President that Washington will not raise tariffs on Japanese auto imports while the TAG negotiations are going on, the joint statement only says that the United States and Japan will refrain from taking measures against the spirit of the statement. The paper conjectured that President Trump could still indicate the possibility of imposing high tariffs on auto imports again in the future if he is not satisfied with progress in the TAG negotiations.

Nikkei expressed the view that although the GOJ succeeded in avoiding additional tariffs on autos for the time being by agreeing to launch TAG negotiations, the Trump administration may make further demands in the upcoming bilateral talks. The paper conjectured that Tokyo had no choice but to enter into bilateral negotiations with the United States to avoid the possibility of Washington raising tariffs on auto imports and that the extent to which the United States will step up its pressure on Japan to open up its agricultural and other markets remains to be seen.

Mainichi opined that it is possible that the TAG negotiations will turn into "FTA talks" in the future because the United States and Japan are planning to discuss investment rules and services following the conclusion of the tariff talks. The paper expressed the view that it is too early for optimism because Japan may be unilaterally forced to make concessions depending on the progress made in the TAG talks.

Yomiuri conjectured that the TAG negotiations will probably be tough because Washington will likely ramp up the pressure on Tokyo to open up its markets.

Sankei speculated that Prime Minister Abe probably agreed to launch TAG negotiations with the United States based on the view that continuing to put off responding concretely to U.S. demands on trade could have had an adverse impact on U.S.-Japan cooperation on North Korea's denuclearization and resolving the abduction issue. The paper wrote that Japan's negotiation skills will be tested because the Trump administration may urge Tokyo to make concessions in the TAG talks.

Ambassador Hagerty says U.S. will not raise tariffs on autos while trade talks are ongoing

NHK reported on its website on Thursday that Ambassador Hagerty held a press conference after the U.S.-Japan summit held in New York on Wednesday during which he welcomed Japan's decision to begin bilateral trade talks with the U.S. by saying that this was something he and President Trump were personally hoping for. On the possibility of the U.S. raising tariffs on Japanese autos, the Ambassador reportedly said: "As long as we're making progress and moving in the right direction, we will forestall any action that would be inconsistent with the progress." Meanwhile, on the possibility of the U.S. returning to the TPP, the Ambassador reportedly said: "The odds of the United States returning to the TPP are extremely limited if not zero." The Ambassador also reportedly disclosed that the two leaders discussed the abduction issue and explained that the President understands its importance. NHK-BS's regular news program "Kokusai Hodo 2018" on Thursday evening also reported that Ambassador Hagerty stressed that measures to raise tariffs on Japanese autos will not be invoked while the trade negotiations are taking place.

Leaders of auto, agricultural industries comment on TAG talks

All national dailies wrote that on Thursday Akio Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association and president of Toyota Motor, released a statement saying: "We welcome the agreement reached between the United States and Japan that Washington will not raise tariffs on Japanese auto imports while the TAG negotiations are ongoing." Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of the Association of Corporate Executives, said that the agreement is good because high tariffs will not be imposed on autos.

JA Zenshu Chairman Nakaya welcomed the joint statement between President Trump and Prime Minister Abe on Wednesday by saying that Japan clearly confirmed with the United States that it will not make greater concessions in agriculture than what it has already agreed to under the TPP and other trade agreements. However, Nakaya called on the GOJ to provide explanations of the details of the agreement and progress in future negotiations.

Opposition parties criticize Abe for agreeing to launch TAG negotiations

Asahi wrote that yesterday the leaders of opposition parties expressed disapproval of the U.S.-Japan agreement to enter into TAG negotiations. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan chief Edano told reporters that he is strongly concerned that Japan is being forced to make concessions on primary commodities, Japanese Communist Party chief Shii criticized Abe for employing "shameful diplomacy," Social Democratic Party leader Yoshikawa said he is strongly opposed to the agreement as it could deal a crushing blow to Japan's agriculture, and Democratic Party for the People leader Tamaki said that Prime Minister Abe is insincere because the TAG negotiations are undeniably tantamount to bilateral FTA talks.


ASDF conducts joint drills with U.S. B-52 bombers over Senkakus

Yomiuri and Nikkei wrote that they learned from a GOJ source that on Thursday ASDF aircraft conducted joint drills with U.S. military B-52 strategic bombers over a wide area covering the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, including the Senkaku Islands. The papers wrote that this was the first time for joint drills between Japanese aircraft and U.S. B-25 bombers over an area near the Senkakus to be disclosed. Yomiuri speculated that the drills were aimed at demonstrating to China U.S.-Japan cooperation. Nikkei conjectured that the exercises were intended to send a warning to China, which is advancing into in the region.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team