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Japan, US hold talks to advance trade negotiations

This combined photo shows U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left, and Japanese economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi holding talks in Tokyo on May 25, 2019. (Pool photo, Kyodo)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- Officials from Japan and the United States started a two-day meeting Monday in Washington to advance negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement.

The working-level meeting comes ahead of talks Thursday between Japanese economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in the U.S. capital.

The two sides are expected to focus on each other's calls for tariff reductions on automobiles and agricultural products, a key issue for bilateral negotiations.

Japan is expected to offer cuts in tariffs on American farm products to levels agreed to under a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership if the United States agrees to remove levies on Japanese industrial goods including automobiles.

The revised TPP, formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, is an 11-nation regional free trade agreement that involves Japan and farming nations Australia and Canada.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP in 2017, citing his preference for bilateral trade deals.

The Trump administration has expressed reluctance to remove auto-related tariffs, though Trump appears poised to appease American farmers with increased market access to Japan as part of his 2020 re-election bid.

Trump, however, indicated last month that Washington would not press Tokyo for a bilateral trade deal until after a Japanese House of Councillors election slated for July, apparently taking into consideration Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's desire to avoid tariff-cutting pressure on farmers.

Japan has been calling for the elimination of U.S. tariffs on Japanese vehicles, including a 2.5 percent levy on cars and a 25 percent duty on trucks as agreed to by former President Barack Obama's administration in the TPP.

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