October 17, 2017
WASHINGTON- US Vice President Mike Pence expressed keen interest in starting talks on a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan during the second round of the two countries' economic dialogue here on Monday, according to Japanese government officials.
It was the first time for Pence to show such an intention during the dialogue with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, also finance minister. The vice president discussed the possibility of the Japan-US FTA in a press conference after the first round of the dialogue in Tokyo in April.
This suggests that the US side may start making specific demands on the FTA ahead of US President Donald Trump's visit to Japan in November, as the president is keen on reducing the US trade deficit.
Meanwhile, Aso explained to Pence about the significance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, the officials said.
Japan, which has been seeking the United States' return to the TPP, takes a cautious stance on the launch of FTA talks and is eager to promote Japan-US leadership in rulemaking on trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.
The joint press release from Pence and Aso, announced after their latest talks, did not touch on a bilateral FTA. Instead, it noted that Japan and the United States will strengthen economic cooperation in such fields as exports of liquefied natural gas, infrastructure development, including railroad construction, and efforts to allow women to play more active roles in society.
On Japan's safeguard measure to curb frozen beef imports from the United States and other countries, Aso and Pence failed to draw a conclusion, but agreed to continue discussing the matter.
At the opening of the dialogue, Aso and Pence both stressed that the Japan-US alliance is gaining importance in the face of increasing threats from North Korea.
After Pence expressed confidence that the economic dialogue will help deepen economic ties between Japan and the United States, Aso said he is eager to promote the dialogue so as to help the bilateral economic relations make a leap forward.
The joint press release also noted that the two countries agreed on the lifting of restrictions on Japanese persimmons and on US potatoes from Idaho.
In the area of automobile trade, Japan will streamline noise and emissions testing procedures for US vehicle imports, the statement said.
Speaking in a press conference after the latest economic dialogue, Aso said he had meaningful discussions with Pence, noting that the two sides could confirm the progress and achievements of talks that continued since the previous dialogue in April. Jiji Press
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