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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 24 - May 7  > Latest Japan-US Summit signals 'US 1st' bilateral trade deal
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2019 April 24 - May 7 [ECONOMY]
editorial 

Latest Japan-US Summit signals 'US 1st' bilateral trade deal

April 28, 2019
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and U.S. President Donald Trump on April 26 held a summit meeting in Washington and agreed to accelerate new trade negotiations.

President Trump in regard to trade said that he feels the possibility of "a good and very long-term trade deal with Japan" and that "Japan is buying a tremendous amount of military equipment and other equipment from the United States". He also said that he wants "to get rid of" the high tariffs Japan has imposed on U.S. agriculture items for many years, again indicating his intent to pursue bilateral negotiations based on his "America First" policy.

The U.S., following the inauguration of the Trump administration, unilaterally withdrew from the 12-country TPP framework. Prime Minister Abe then assured the Japanese public that he would persuade the U.S. to rejoin the TPP but failed. Therefore, Abe accepted separate trade talks with the U.S. apart from the TPP11 and the Japan-EU EPA.

Abe explained that the new talks are aimed at a Japan-U.S. trade agreement on goods (TAG), not for a comprehensive deal. In contrast, Trump, from the very beginning, publicly stated that these are FTA talks with Japan which cover not only goods but also services. In fact, during an initial meeting held in mid-April between Japan's Economic Minister Motegi Toshimitsu and USTR Robert Lighthizer, Japan was pressed to include services as a subject in bilateral trade discussions. What is more, with a view to restrict Japan's measures to keep the yen low, negotiations began on April 25 between Japan's Finance Minister Aso Taro and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The Trump administration pulled out of the TPP and started seeking bilateral trade deals with other nations, including Japan, for the purpose of winning concessions advantageous to the U.S. which could not be accomplished under multilateral trade talks. In the United States, some industries, including agriculture and stock farming have been unhappy with the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP, claiming that they lost the Japanese market to Australia and Canada. Under this circumstance, it is serious that President Trump made clear his commitment to "eliminate" tariffs on U.S. farm products and is pressing Japan to concede ground in bilateral trade talks. With the U.S. presidential election scheduled for next year, Trump will undoubtedly exert ever more pressure on Japan in order to brag about any achievements made.

Japan should stop negotiating with the U.S. immediately and should aim to protect Japan's economic and food sovereignty as well as to establish fair and just trade rules.

Past related articles:
> Abe gov't refers to new trade talks with US as TAG, not FTA [October 12, 2018]
> Shii criticizes latest Abe-Trump meeting for threatening Japan’s economic sovereignty [September 28, 2018]
> Abe accepts Trump’s demand for trade talks leading to FTA [April 20, 2018]
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