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Trade war

Japan says currency not focus of high-level US trade talks

Tokyo, Washington kick off first round of 2-day negotiations

Japanese Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi speaks to reporters before the start of trade talks with the U.S. on April 15.

WASHINGTON -- Trade negotiations between the U.S. and Japan began here on Monday, kicking off what may be contentious talks aimed at creating a bilateral trade framework, especially as Tokyo remains cautious about expected demands for currency provisions.

The Japanese team, led by Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, sat down in Washington with their counterparts led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The talks will last through Tuesday.

A currency provision to prevent Japan from actively weakening the yen may be discussed, but Motegi emphasized at a news conference following the first meeting that the provision is not the  focus of negotiations.

Motegi said the two sides "already agreed to discuss the matter between finance ministers under the agreement in February 2017." Rather, the two-day talks will center on a broad trade agreement on goods.

When asked if the currency clause will come up during the meeting, the minister told reporters he will "elaborate on individual items tomorrow."

Motegi also said the delegations confirmed that discussions would proceed according to the joint statement announced in September, in which the two sides agreed to prioritize talks on trade. "We share the same view on how to proceed [with talks]," Motegi said.

Tokyo aims to abolish tariffs on automobiles and other manufactured goods while limiting farm product duties to previously agreed upon levels in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Washington, however, will likely push for agricultural tariffs lower than TPP levels, as well as more import restrictions on Japanese autos.

Negotiations were expected to begin in January but were put on hold as the U.S.focused on trade talks with China.

After a cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Japan, Finance Minister Taro Aso refrained from comment, merely saying it is just "speculation" as to whether the U.S. will demand a currency clause as part of a trade agreement.

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