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US and Japan to launch talks on bilateral trade

The US and Japan have agreed to launch negotiations on a potential bilateral trade agreement on goods and services, in addition to talks on other trade and investment items.

The move to expand trade and investment between the two countries was agreed yesterday (26 September) at a summit meeting in New York between US President Donald Trump and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In a joint statement after the meeting, the leaders affirmed "the importance of a strong, stable, and mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship" between the two countries. Together, their economies represent around 30% of global Gross Domestic Product.

The President reiterated the importance of reciprocal trade, as well as reducing the trade deficit with Japan and other countries, while the Prime Minister emphasised the importance of free, fair, and rules-based trade.

"Against this backdrop, we reaffirmed our determination to further expand trade and investment between the United States and Japan in a mutually beneficial manner, including through further concrete steps, as well as to realise free, fair, and open development of the global economy," they said.

"The United States and Japan will enter into negotiations, following the completion of necessary domestic procedures, for a United States–Japan Trade Agreement on goods, as well as on other key areas including services, that can produce early achievements. "

The two leaders said they also intend to have negotiations on other trade and investment items following the completion of the discussions of the aforementioned agreement.

They pledged to strengthen cooperation to protect their companies and workers from non-market oriented policies and practices by third countries, including by promoting discussions on World Trade Organization (WTO) reform and e-commerce and addressing unfair trading practices such as intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, trade-distorting industrial subsidies, distortions created by state-owned enterprises, and overcapacity.

The statement indicated that Washington and Tokyo will "refrain from taking measures against the spirit of this joint statement during the process of these consultations", which suggests Japan could be excluded from any import tariff increases the Trump administration might impose following its ongoing Section 232 national security investigation of automobiles and auto parts.

The two sides added that they will "make efforts for the early solution of other tariff-related issues," which could include the higher duties the US has levied against steel and aluminum imports.

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