U.S. might eye quick agricultural trade deal with Japan: Perdue

April 30, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States might opt for a more narrow and quick trade deal with Japan that would address agricultural products, instead of a more comprehensive agreement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said on Tuesday.

“We want a quick resolution of our agricultural request here … maybe temporarily that could then be fleshed out over longer period,” Perdue told reporters.

He said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is the chief negotiator for Washington’s trade talks, was interested in getting a deal sooner rather than later.

“Maybe not a comprehensive type of bilateral trade negotiations but certainly one that seals down the agricultural issues that we are concerned about. I think we can get that done quickly,” Perdue told reporters.

President Donald Trump last week held one-to-one talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Oval Office and said it was possible that the United States could reach a new bilateral trade agreement with Japan by the time he visits Tokyo in May.

Trump has made clear he has been unhappy with Japan’s trade surplus with the United States – much of it from auto exports – and wants a two-way agreement to address it.

U.S. farmers fear they will lose out to other countries that now have reduced tariff rates in Japan following the enacting of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The United States withdrew out of the TPP under Trump, hence other countries still in the trade deal like Canada have preferential access to the lucrative Japanese market.

During last week’s talks, Trump said negotiators for the United States and Japan are making progress in his drive to rebalance their trade relationship in a way that reduces chronic U.S. trade deficits with Japan. He cited Japanese tariffs on American agricultural products as an irritant.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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