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Economy

Japan trade deal a 'very high priority': US commerce chief

NAFTA renegotiation stays atop Washington's trade to-do list, Ross says

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. regards negotiating a trade agreement with Japan as a "very high priority," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters here Friday.

Though President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, Washington has shown an interest in a bilateral free trade agreement with Tokyo, which Ross called a "major trading partner." 

The two countries will kick off a new economic dialogue next month in talks led by Vice President Mike Pence and Taro Aso, Japan's deputy prime minister and finance minister.

Ross, who once supported the TPP, tipped his hat to Japan for spending a great deal of political capital hammering out the general terms of the agreement.

But Washington's top priority remains renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with neighbors Mexico and Canada, Ross said. The commerce secretary signaled that the U.S. intends to put the matter back in front of Congress within a few weeks and could re-enter formal negotiations as early as mid-June. The topics to be covered are still being determined, he said.

The Trump administration is devising an economic growth strategy that includes spurring domestic investment via deep cuts to corporate tax rates. Republicans in the House of Representatives also are considering a border adjustment tax, but Ross said the administration would watch the debate in both houses of Congress before taking a stance.

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