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Japan Pushes Back Against U.S. Pressure for Bilateral Trade Deal

USAgNet - April 21, 2017

Japan has less room to compromise with the United States under a bilateral trade deal than under a multilateral agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), its deputy prime minister said, taking a swipe at U.S. attempts to directly pressure Tokyo into opening up heavily-protected markets like agriculture. According to Reuters, Taro Aso, who heads Japan for a newly-created bilateral economic dialogue with the United States, said that under TPP, Japan was able to accede to more U.S. demands as it could make up for the losses through agreements with other countries.

"In a bilateral deal, you can't do that. You can't get back what you lose from a compromise with the United States," Aso said in a seminar at Columbia University on Wednesday.

Aso's comments underscore Japan's hopes of avoiding a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) with the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the 12-nation TPP backed by his predecessor Barack Obama and Japanese premier Shinzo Abe.

Tokyo fears a two-way agreement would expose it to stronger U.S. pressure to open up politically-sensitive markets like agriculture and beef.

After the first round of talks in Tokyo on Tuesday, Japan and the United States remained at logger-heads on how to frame the bilateral economic dialogue, reports Reuters.

The Trump administration has signaled its intention to use the dialogue to push for a two-way trade deal, while Japan wants to broaden the agenda to add less-thorny issues like infrastructure investment.

Vice President Mike Pence, who headed the U.S. delegation, said his administration hopes the bilateral dialogue could lead to future negotiations on a FTA.

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