April 18, 2017 1:10 pm JST

US wants more trade with Japan through bilateral pact: Ross

High-level economy discussions start in Tokyo

KENTARO IWAMOTO, Nikkei staff writer

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shakes hand with Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko at the start of their talks in Tokyo, on April 18.

TOKYO -- The U.S. is keen to increase trade with Japan through a trade agreement, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross told reporters on Tuesday morning after meeting Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko in Tokyo.

"We are certainly eager to increase our trade relationships with Japan and to do so in the form of an agreement," Ross said when asked whether the two ministers had discussed a free trade agreement between the two countries. The Trump administration has expressed its intention to discuss a bilateral treaty including a free trade agreement, but Tokyo is reluctant as it would likely entail significant tariff reductions on sensitive goods like agricultural products. 

The meeting was held prior to the first round of a U.S.-Japan economic dialogue set to kick off Tuesday afternoon. The talks will be held between Japanese Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in the Japanese capital.

Seko, speaking separately to reporters after meeting with Ross, said of the FTA: "I would like to wait for the results of [today's] economic dialogue." He also said their discussions touched on trade conditions in Asia.

According to Seko, he and Ross discussed cooperation in various fields, including cyber security, cross-border privacy rules, and promoting high-quality infrastructure projects. They likely discussed energy cooperation as well.

Ross said the two would meet again in June.

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