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Trade war

US-Japan trade negotiations set for April 15-16

The two sides remain split over which services to include in TAG talks

TOKYO -- Japan and the U.S. plan to hold talks on a framework for a "trade agreement on goods" from April 15 to 16.

Japan's trade minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will meet to decide the scope of the talks, including lower tariffs on goods. The TAG talks will also include services, with the specifics to be determined during the negotiations.

In late September last year, Japan agreed to begin negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement. But the joint statement only referred to services that "can produce early achievements." There was no consensus on which topics are up for discussion. Tokyo wants to focus on tariffs on goods, while Washington seeks to include a wide range of services.

Japan wants the discussions on services to concentrate on simplifying customs procedures. If Washington presses for a broader negotiation over food safety standards or drug pricing, for example, Tokyo is likely to resist.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP-11, went into effect last year, and Japan signed an economic partnership agreement with the European Union in February. U.S. farmers, who face a competitive disadvantage selling their goods in Japan due to these trade pacts, are pushing for quick tariff reductions.

Tokyo accepts the principle of lowering duties on U.S. products to TPP levels, but wants to limit the scope of the agreement on services as much as possible. It hopes the U.S. will prioritize reaching a deal quickly, rather than taking a hard line on services.

The negotiations were expected to take place in January, but were delayed when the U.S. decided to focus first on its trade talks with China.

Jada Nagumo

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