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Japan gov't officials relieved after US, China agree on trade war ceasefire

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, talks during a meeting with President Donald Trump, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

BUENOS AIRES -- Japanese government officials are relieved after the United States and China agreed on a 90-day ceasefire in their intensifying trade war.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acted as a mediator in the dispute, urging both Washington and Beijing to seek a compromise.

"Concerned countries including the United States and China were prepared for compromise," said a relieved senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official.

However, as neither the U.S. nor China has presented specific measures to prevent bilateral friction, it remains unclear if the trade dispute can be settled in the foreseeable future.

U.S. President Donald Trump agreed with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a Dec. 1 dinner meeting in Buenos Aires to hold off on a plan to hike tariffs on imports of Chinese goods. The meeting was held after the Group of 20 leaders' summit.

The Trump administration had warned that, if the talks failed, Washington would raise tariffs on $200 billion (approximately 23 trillion yen) worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent on Jan. 1. Beijing had also threatened to retaliate.

The two economic giants reached the ceasefire accord because their intensifying trade dispute has seriously affected the economy. Specifically, growing concerns that the trade war could be prolonged have caused share prices to fall, corporate performances to decline and the Chinese economy to slow down more sharply than before.

In a speech after the G-20 leaders' declaration was adopted, Prime Minister Abe emphasized that the group of major world economies has a responsibility to find a solution to global challenges. He then declared that he will take the lead to make the June 2019 G-20 summit in Osaka a success.

The government regards the Buenos Aires event as a "prelude" to the Osaka summit, according to an individual accompanying the prime minister. Unless Japan can demonstrate G-20 countries' solidarity at the Osaka summit, it could adversely affect the next House of Councillors election in summer 2019 as well as the Japanese economy.

Prime Minister Abe was quoted by an individual linked to the government as saying that he gone to the Buenos Aires summit with the hope of "creating signs of solidarity" among the G-20 countries ahead of next year's conference.

During the G-20 general meeting on Nov. 30, the prime minister warned the other leaders that tit-for-tat exchanges of protectionist and trade restriction measures would benefit no country. Shortly afterward, he met individually with Trump and Xi. He encouraged the Chinese leader to compromise, saying, "A conflict between the United States and China would benefit nobody."

(Japanese original by Masahiro Nakai, North America General Bureau; Keisuke Kawazu, China General Bureau; and Muneyoshi Mitsuda, Political News Department)

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