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Politics

Japan, US working groups will duel on economic cooperation

Aso, Pence kick off bilateral dialogue next week

| Japan

TOKYO -- Japan and the U.S. are expected to agree to create vice-ministerial-level working groups to address economic issues in their dialogue set for April 18 in Tokyo, with each side promoting cooperation yet pursuing separate agendas.

The working groups will cover macroeconomic cooperation, economic partnerships and trade frameworks.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Taro Aso, the Japanese deputy prime minister and finance minister, will attend the economic dialogue, which was committed to during a summit of the country's leaders in February. Pence also will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his stay in Japan through the next day.

Officials from Japan's Foreign and Finance ministries, as well as from the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments and the U.S. Trade Representative's office, will take part in the working groups. Tokyo hopes to bolster ties with Washington through cooperating on U.S. infrastructure development such as high-speed rail construction.

President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, choosing instead to seek a bilateral deal with Japan. But Tokyo prefers multilateral agreements like the TPP. Japan likely aims to deflect American pressure by starting the conversation via working-level talks instead of through cabinet officials. Tokyo also could try to persuade Washington to rethink its stance on the TPP.

The U.S. hopes to advance talks on a bilateral trade deal through the working groups. America has expressed interest in specific fields such as automotive -- a particular concern for Trump -- as well as agricultural goods, pharmaceuticals and tourism, a diplomatic source says. Washington apparently also wants to position the working group on trade above the other two.

(Nikkei)

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