Spirit of give and take needed in Japan-US trade talks

opinion August 16, 2018 21:37

By The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN

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The Japanese and US governments have completed their first meeting for new ministerial-level trade talks.

With a view to concluding a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan, the United States called for starting bilateral negotiations. In response to this, Japan reiterated the importance of the US returning to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact, with the two countries failing to narrow their differences in their discussions.

The greatest focus was what to do with punitive tariffs on car imports, a measure being considered by the US. Japan was not able to secure a commitment from the US to exclude Japanese cars from the list of targets for punitive measures.

If Japan enters bilateral negotiations over the FTA and other matters while the US continues to use automobile tariffs as a pawn, there are concerns that Japan could be pressed to make unilateral concessions.

At the present time, it is not advisable for Japan to compromise. Japan had good reason to ensure the next meeting takes place in September, leaving the talks on starting bilateral negotiations until then.

For one thing, Japan does not impose tariffs on imported cars. It is unreasonable for the US to regard the Japanese car market as a problem.

If the US seeks to successfully close FTA negotiations, it should retract its move to consider taking punitive steps, first and foremost.

In the US, too, many people are opposed to raising tariffs on car imports. Doing so could deal a blow to US consumers and corporations through such effects as higher imported car prices.

Japan should tenaciously persuade the US that its protectionist policy would not necessarily be to its advantage.

If the TPP treaty takes effect, tariffs on agricultural and other imports into Japan from other signatory nations will be lowered. The US, which has withdrawn from the pact, will not be able to share in such benefits.

With midterm elections set for November, the US government wants to contain the dissatisfaction felt by agricultural and other organisations as much as possible. In future talks, the US is certain to demand even more strongly that Japan open its agricultural and other markets.

The details of the TPP pact were agreed upon as the best possible compromise, finally reached after lengthy discussions. Japan should continue to resolutely assert that would be difficult to make more concessions than the compromise made in TPP talks.

There is no point in holding trade talks if the US is the sole beneficiary. It is important to make the new Japan-US talks constructive discussions that would be conducive to the growth of both nations.

In their latest discussions, too, Japan and the US agreed to cooperate in settling such problems as an infringement of intellectual property rights and a forced transfer of technology. This agreement was reached with China in mind.

Japan and the US should come up with concrete measures to bolster free trade.