WASHINGTON -- The U.S. and Japan wrapped up their first round of "free, fair and reciprocal" trade negotiations on Friday, agreeing to pursue further cooperation and meet again next month to work toward a concrete deal.
"We agreed to seek ways to promote Japan-U.S. trade and expand areas of cooperation based on a shared understanding," Japanese Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters after the two-day meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
The two sides did not come to terms on how to pursue a formal deal, with Washington still pushing for a bilateral free trade agreement and Tokyo urging the U.S. to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They did agree on a "basic direction" of "filling the gap between our positions" and promoting bilateral trade, Motegi said.
Lighthizer and Motegi plan to hold a second round of talks before an expected late-September meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Motegi said he hopes Tokyo and Washington will be able to pick up where they left off next month and expressed confidence that the meeting will bear fruit.
"I don't think the U.S. is by any means dissatisfied with these talks," he said.
The two sides held in-depth discussions on such issues as agricultural products -- an area where Washington has pressured Tokyo to open its markets wider -- and Trump's proposal to raise tariffs on imported autos. Motegi said he and Lighthizer exchanged views, but he declined to provide details "at this stage."
Asked about the auto tariffs, Motegi said only that "building trust is absolutely vital." He likely did not receive a solid answer from the American side.
Proposals have surfaced for Japan to buy liquefied natural gas or defense equipment from the U.S. to reduce the trade imbalance -- a priority of Trump's. Motegi implied that the topic did not come up this time around, saying that "we may discuss topics besides trade rules during future talks."
Motegi and Lighthizer affirmed that they will work together against China's alleged violations of intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers, as well as cooperate on reform at the World Trade Organization.