U.S. wants trade to dominate economic talks with Japan – source

Image: Japanese Prime Minister Abe shakes hands with U.S. President Trump during their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

By Yoshifumi Takemoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – The United States is pushing for trade to be a key issue in top-level economic talks with Japan, a person directly involved in preparations for the talks told Reuters on Thursday, an unwelcome development for Tokyo, which has sought to keep the talks from turning into a forum for U.S. pressure to reduce the bilateral trade imbalance.

Japan wants to keep the bilateral dialogue, to be led by Vice President Mike Pence and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and starting next Tuesday, focused on economic policy, energy, infrastructure investment, and the rules of trade.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will also visit Tokyo next week but it has not been decided whether he will join the dialogue, the source said.

Washington requested last week that the U.S. wanted to talk about bilateral trade issues including farm products at the economic dialogue, the source said. Japan rejected the idea but also told Washington that Tokyo could accept such talks outside of the dialogue, he said.

Tokyo has been wary of President Donald Trump’s complaints that Japan and other countries block market access to U.S. companies and artificially weaken their currencies to boost exports.

Tokyo is resisting America’s “strong demand” for trade to be included in the economic dialogue, but the trade imbalance will become a key theme of the talks, the Asahi newspaper said on Thursday, citing unnamed sources for its information.

Washington’s demand, made last week, did not specify any trade areas for discussion, but a U.S. government source said the Trump administration mainly wants to discuss cars and agriculture, the paper said.

(Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto, Writing by William Mallard; Editing by James Dalgleish and Sam Holmes)

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