WASHINGTON -- The U.S. hopes to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in congressional testimony Wednesday.
Lighthizer told the House Ways and Means Committee that he will negotiate a trade pact that benefits the U.S.
"We have told Japan of our desire to negotiate a free trade agreement," he said. Regarding the time frame, the trade representative said, "at the appropriate time," suggesting Washington wants to start bilateral talks once Tokyo completes procedures for the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. The pact was signed on March 8 and must be ratified by the 11 participating countries.
The revised TPP will create a free trade zone across the Pacific. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement last year, saying that it was not a fair deal and that joining was not in the interests of the U.S.
Lighthizer also told lawmakers the administration will determine by the end of April which U.S. allies will be exempted from new tariffs that take effect Friday on steel and aluminum imports.
Canada and Mexico, Washington's partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement, are expected to be exempted from the punitive duties. The three countries are in talks to revise the trade pact. The U.S. is also negotiating with South Korea over their bilateral free trade deal, and Seoul is likely to receive a tariff waiver.
Lighthizer said many countries have asked for exemptions from the planned steel and aluminum tariffs. He added that the U.S. is in talks with Australia, Argentina and the European Union for such waivers.
The U.S. expected to impose separate trade restrictions against China for what it says are violations of U.S. companies' intellectual property rights.
Lighthizer said that trade and investment restrictions against China are necessary because the World Trade Organization "has proven to be wholly inadequate to deal with China's version of a state-dominated economy that rejects market principles."