TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and the United States will likely launch trade talks in April or May, later than initially planned, as Washington needs to focus first on ongoing negotiations with Beijing to settle a tariff war, sources with knowledge of the plan said Monday.
Based on an agreement reached last September, the Japan-U.S. talks are expected to be held in Washington before May 26 when U.S. President Donald Trump plans to visit Japan, according to the sources.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Japan's economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi were initially expected to meet in March. But Lighthizer's schedule is apparently tight as he is also in charge of the U.S.-China negotiations.
As financial markets remain focused on the outcome of trade talks between the world's two largest economies, Trump said Sunday he will extend the deadline for a trade deal with Beijing beyond Friday while delaying the imposition of additional tariffs on Chinese imports.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump agreed to start bilateral trade talks last September, in a move largely seen as Tokyo acquiescing to Washington. The Japanese government has said the negotiations for a trade deal with the United States focus primarily on goods, drawing a line with a more wide-ranging free trade agreement.
The first meeting will see Japan and the United States determining the scope of trade negotiations in agriculture and industrial products.
As Trump has taken issue with his country's hefty trade deficit with major exporters like Japan, the focus would be whether the two nations will take up nontariff measures, such as an import cap on Japanese cars.
For such nontariff measures, Japan is seen as hoping to focus on areas where bilateral consultations would be easier, including customs procedures. But speculation has grown that the United States will push for a review of regulations on medicine and medical equipment.
Abe has been promoting free trade as part of his growth strategy for the export-reliant Japanese economy.
As Japan has braced for the launch of bilateral talks with its key trading partner the United States, a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord and Japan's economic partnership agreement with the European Union have taken effect.