US tells Japan it wants to start FTA talks
Nikkei -- Oct 17
The U.S. has for the first time told Japan it has a "strong interest" in starting talks over a potential free trade agreement between the two countries.

A Japanese government official said that the U.S. side had touched upon the issue of an FTA during the second round of economic dialogue between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Monday.

The subject was not discussed during the first round of talks in Tokyo in April, nor has it been broached in meetings between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump, making this the first official request to open negotiations.

The Trump administration has made no secret of the fact it regards the trade deficit as a problem -- it stands at around $70 billion a year -- and has been calling for a solution through bilateral talks.

Tokyo remains cautious as Japan would be expected to open up its agriculture and livestock sector under an FTA. A high-ranking official from the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that it would "not enter negotiations immediately."

Trump is scheduled to visit Japan for the first time as president in early November, when the matter will likely be on the agenda.

The talks between Pence and Aso, which lasted just under two hours, were in part aimed at laying the groundwork for the visit. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were also in attendance.

According to a joint news release, Japan agreed to relax inspection procedures for imported cars, one of the biggest factors behind the trade deficit.

News source: Nikkei
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