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Japan to tell Midwest states its carmakers help US economy

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's industry minister Hiroshige Seko said Friday he will visit Midwestern states of the United States next week in a bid to highlight Japanese automakers' contributions to the U.S. economy.

Seko's visit from Monday through Aug. 4 will coincide with the U.S. administration's ongoing probe into automobile imports as Washington is considering imposing additional tariffs under President Donald Trump's protectionist trade policy.

Seko will travel to Indiana, Ohio and Michigan where Japanese automakers operate plants to talk about the positive impacts of the Japanese firms on local investment and employment. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said a visit to the U.S. Midwest region by an incumbent Japanese industry minister is highly unusual.

Japan and the United States are set to start new trade negotiations next month, while the U.S. Commerce Department has been investigating since May whether imports of cars and parts pose a risk to U.S. national security.

Trump, under his "America First" policy, imposed steep tariffs on steel and aluminum in March and there is speculation he could take a similar move against autos before the country's midterm elections in November.

After the United States and the European Union agreed on removing tariffs on industrial products excluding the auto sector at a summit Wednesday, Seko said he welcomes their efforts toward free trade.

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