President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday that they had agreed to intensify trade consultations between the two countries with an aim to expand investment and trade between their countries. “President Trump and I agreed to start talks for free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals,” Abe said at a joint news conference with Trump.

President Trump reaffirmed his desire at the news conference to address trade imbalances with Japan, saying he preferred one-on-one talks to negotiate a bilateral deal aimed at trimming the U.S. trade deficit. While Trump and Abe said they had agreed to have top advisers pursue talks, Abe made it clear that differences remained in each country’s approach.

“On the U.S. side, they are interested in a bilateral deal,” Abe told reporters.  “Our country’s position is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the best for both of our countries,” he said.  President Trump abandoned TPP during his first weeks in office, saying it was not a good deal for the United States.  “I don’t want to go back into TPP, but if they offered us a deal that I cannot refuse on behalf of the United States, I would do it,” Trump said.

The next step is for the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japan’s Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to lead talks on trade and reach a conclusion that is agreeable to both sides.

Larry Kudlow, the director at the White house National Economic Council said on Tuesday that the U.S. government wants Japan to open up its politically sensitive agriculture market, but this is a move Japan is likely to resist.

Trump last month imposed a 25-percent tariff on steel imports and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum imports. The Trump administration granted temporary tariff exemptions to several other U.S. allies, but not Japan.  The president said he may take those tariffs off of steel and aluminum imported from Japan if the two countries can come to a trade agreement.



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