Japan, U.S. remain rifted over trade issues

Updated 2017-11-07 14:30:58 Xinhua
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) welcomes visiting U.S. President Donald Trump in Tokyo, capital of Japan, on Nov. 6, 2017. (Xinhua)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) welcomes visiting U.S. President Donald Trump in Tokyo, capital of Japan, on Nov. 6, 2017. (Xinhua)

U.S. President Donald Trump wrapped up a three-day visit to Japan on Tuesday, during which he reconfirmed the U.S. alliance with Japan while taking aim at Japan's "massive" trade surplus with the United States.

While the visiting president accused that trade with Japan is "not fair and not open" and dismissed again the idea of rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal which Japan has been keen to push forward, it revealed once again the significant rifts on trade and economic issues between the two alliances, local analysts said.

In view of the upcoming U.S. midterm elections next year, the world's largest economy is expected to exert more pressure on Japan regarding trade issues, raising strong concerns on Japan's part, local analysts said.

JAPAN RELUCTANT TO MOVE TOWARDS FTA

"The United States has suffered massive trade deficits with Japan for many, many years, almost 70 billion (U.S. dollars) annually," Trump remarked at a consortium of U.S. and Japanese business leaders before holding a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.

However, he expressed willingness to "come up with trade deals and trade concepts that are going to be fair to both countries," though stopping short of saying what deals or concepts he has in mind.

Jin Jianmin, a senior fellow at Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo, said that while the United States is pushing for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan, Japan is trying its best to avoid such talks due to concerns that it would be put into a disadvantageous negotiating position.

"Japan is concerned that it would be forced to make concessions beyond the ones it had agreed to during the 12-nation TPP talks, especially in sensitive sectors such as agriculture," Jin said.

But on the other hand, Japan is also concerned that if it sticks to its own economic interests, its security relationship with the United States would be sabotaged, Jin added.

"In other words, as long as Japan still relies on the security commitments made by the United States for its defense, it would be impossible for Japan to have an equal' negotiation with the United States on economic issues, and that's why Japan preferred multilateral frameworks such as the TPP," said Jin.

Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP deal soon after its inauguration on ground that it would hurt the U.S. interests, and as the U.S. midterm elections are coming, it is expected to exert more pressure on Japan on trade and economic issues, said Jin, adding that it would be only a matter of time for Japan to concede and start talks on the FTA.

During the summit meeting between Abe and Trump on Monday, the two sides agreed to leave discussions on bilateral trade and investment issues to the high-level economic dialogue overseen by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence, local media quoted government officials as saying.

Trump's remarks and the economic rifts between Japan and the United States. have been stirring concerns in Japan.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, Secretary General of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), said that he can not accept Trump's remarks and that the Japanese market has a high visibility, adding that Abe should make an explanation to the parliament about Trump's demands on trade issues.

Atsushi Oshima, secretary general of the Party of Hope, said that he felt "uneasy about the economic talks between the two countries," and called upon the government not to compromise easily to the demands of the United States.

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