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International relations

US and Japan to start high-level trade talks in August

Ministerial discussions will likely focus on farm products and autos

Wagyu beef is displayed in Osaka. Beef imports into Japan is one of the items that will be dealt with at the highest levels in U.S.-Japan trade talks.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON -- Trade talks between Washington and Tokyo are expected to go into high gear early next month as ministerial-level talks begin, with agricultural goods and automobiles likely to be the main topics. 

The two governments ended three days of working-level talks on Friday, restarting discussions focused on cutting tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods. It was the first meeting held after Japan’s upper house election on July 21.

Officials from Japan's economy, agriculture and finance ministries participated in the meeting. Aiming to reach a quick agreement, the two sides agreed in June to assign topics for discussion to different levels, such as to ministers or to lower-ranking officials.

Tokyo and Washington "successfully sorted out points for discussion," said Kazuhisa Shibuya, the Japanese official responsible for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and who led the working-level talks, at a news conference Friday. “We exchanged ideas frankly." 

Next month's ministerial-level talks will include Japan’s Minister for Economic and Fiscal policy, Toshimitsu Motegi, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The two are expected to discuss areas where each side is most reluctant to cut tariffs -- beef, pork, wheat and dairy products for Japan and automobiles and auto parts for the U.S. 

U.S. President Donald Trump in May set a six-month deadline to reach a deal with Japan under the threat of increased tariffs. However, after a four-day visit to Japan later that month, Trump said he expected a deal to be announced in August, well ahead of the deadline.   

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