Pence kicks off Japan talks, both sides seek 'near term' results

Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:10pm EDT
 
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By Roberta Rampton and Minami Funakoshi

TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday put Japan on notice that Washington wants results "in the near future" from talks it hopes will open markets to U.S. goods, adding that the dialogue could lead to negotiations on a two-way trade deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arranged the economic dialogue between their deputies at a Washington summit in February, soon after Trump took office.

"Today we are beginning a process of economic dialogue, the end of which may result in bilateral trade negotiations in the future," Pence told a news conference with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, his counterpart at Tuesday's talks.

"At some point in the future, there may be a decision made between our nations to take what we have learned in this dialogue and commence formal negotiations for a free trade agreement," he said. "But I leave that for the future."

The comments dash the hopes of Japanese policymakers, who have said they want to avoid use of the economic dialogue as a forum to discuss a bilateral FTA that may put them under U.S. pressure to open up highly-protected areas like agriculture.

They also echo those of U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who told reporters that Washington was eager to increase trade ties with Tokyo through a two-way pact.

Trump campaigned for office on an "America First" platform, saying he would boost U.S. manufacturing jobs and shrink the country's trade deficit with countries like Japan.

Trump also abandoned the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) backed by predecessor Barack Obama and Abe, and vowed to revisit regional trade deals to focus on two-way agreements.   Continued...

 
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso walk on their way to a meeting at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's (not pictured) official residence in Tokyo, Japan April 18, 2017.  REUTERS/Franck Robichon/Pool