US-Japan trade deal progress likely in ‘months’: US official

21 June, 2019 12:00 AM printer

WASHINGTON: Tokyo understands Washington’s desire to negotiate greater access to the Japanese market and efforts to reach a new trade agreement should bear fruit soon, a top US trade official said Wednesday.

The testimony by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer comes a week before US officials are due to meet Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, according to Lighthizer, reports AFP.

He told a House of Representatives panel on taxes and trade duties that US farmers are now at a disadvantage in exporting to Japan, which has entered a new trade agreement with Europe and is also party to the Transpacific Partnership — giving Australian and Canadian exporters an advantage over the United States.

President Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP on his first full day in office in 2017, claiming it would have led to job losses and further erosion of US manufacturing.

“We understand the nature of this problem and we have to resolve it because if we don’t, these farmers are gonna lose that market, because of nothing they did, just because Japan gave more access to somebody else, and they may never get those markets back,” Lighthizer said in a second consecutive day of congressional testimony.

“And the Japanese understand completely our position and I’m hopeful that we’ll have something resolved in the weeks and months ahead, but there’s an enormous amount of urgency.”

During a meeting in Tokyo last month with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump complained of the sizeable US trade deficit with Japan, which amounted to $67.2 billion in goods last year.

Trump expects to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 summit this week in an effort to rescue trade negotiations that appeared to collapse last month.

American officials accused their Chinese counterparts of backsliding on commitments made in the talks.