Japan says Pacific Rim pact offers best trade deals

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks at Columbia Business School in New York City

Up to now, the Japanese government has been cautious about pushing ahead with the TPP without the USA, but has changed its approach in light of the Trump administration's hostility to multilateral deals.

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

The Nikkei Asian Review reported Japan's deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, as saying the remaining participants would "begin talks on implementing the deal in May" during a speech in NY.

After the first round of talks in Tokyo on Tuesday, the two sides remained at loggerheads on how to frame the bilateral economic dialogue.

Given that the conditions for effectuation of the accord will change, it is possible the opinions of participating nations could differ on whether individual issues need to be renegotiated even if all 11 nations had already agreed on them. At the same time, Japan now plans to avoid bilateral trade talks with the U.S.

Japan has completed ratification procedures for the current TPP deal. Trump would have more than likely seen Japan and Abe's overtures for what they were, with past negotiations not forgotten.

Japan is looking to ratify a joint declaration during the meeting that will direct working-level staff to come up with ways of implementing the trade deal without the U.S.

Washington had also insisted that Japan eliminate some technical barriers that prevent the sales of some US cars in Japan, while maintaining tariffs on Japanese automobile imports.

The deal, that was estimated to be worth more than $4 billion to USA agriculture, has Japan trying to amend the 11-nation deal, cutting out the US and moving forward.

Meanwhile, if the 11 nations proceed with trade liberalization, US producers and companies will be at a disadvantage regarding exports to these countries, including Japan. It is believed such a tax would push up the prices of USA imports, which in turn would make the dollar stronger against major peers.

At the March meeting, which was the first since Trump became USA president, members dropped the obligatory anti-protectionism line - we resist all forms of protectionism - in their joint communique at Washington's request. Additionally, Japan still hopes that the United States comes back to multinational negotiations rather than bilateral ones.

"Today gives evidence of the fact that the United States of America is determined to reach out to our partners in the Asia Pacific and around the world to at least begin to explore the possibility of expanded economic opportunities including trade on a bilateral basis", he said. The joint statement said that (1) the United States and Japan would explore bilateral discussions, and (2) Japan will continue to advance progress on its existing initiatives (i.e. TPP). "But, whether Japan and the US will reach an FTA, I will leave that to the future", Pence said.

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