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Trade war

US seeks quick agreement on agriculture in Japan trade talks

Washington frets over losing market share from TPP and EU pacts

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue tours a farm in August 2018. He wants to ink temporary trade provisions with Japan before focusing on more time-consuming issues.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. wants to reach a temporary trade agreement limited to agricultural products with Japan ahead of a full-fledged bilateral deal, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Thursday.

Negotiations for the Trade Agreement on Goods kick off next week. But Washington wants Tokyo to lower agricultural tariffs as soon as possible, concerned about the declining competitiveness of American goods compared to those from the 11 members of the updated Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

"I hope we can come to a very quick agreement with Japan" -- perhaps over some temporary agricultural provisions -- "and then hash out the many other issues that take longer," Perdue told reporters. He is believed to have communicated his wishes Wednesday to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the lead American negotiator.

Perdue said Lighthizer "understands the criticality" of a swift agreement with Japan and "understands that our producers will be at a disadvantage" now that the TPP-11 has entered into force. The 12-member original TPP had included the U.S., but President Donald Trump withdrew before it took effect.

Japan has lowered tariffs for many of America's competitors under the TPP-11 and its economic partnership agreement with the European Union, squeezing U.S. beef and pork exports to Japan.

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