WASHINGTON: The United States and Japan on Wednesday unveiled a new forum to strengthen ties and resolve trade friction between the economic powers, while countering the distortions caused by China.
The US-Japan partnership on trade will begin regular meetings early next year, according to a joint statement, and represents the latest step by President Joe Biden’s administration to rebuild the diplomatic ties dismantled by his predecessor Donald Trump.
“This partnership will deepen the cooperation between the United States and Japan that has defined our strong bilateral trade relationship,” US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai said in a statement from Tokyo.
One of the forum’s major issues will be reaching a deal to remove levies imposed by Washington on metals.
In June 2018, Trump imposed tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum imported from several countries, including the European Union and Japan.
Trump said he was acting on national security grounds, a claim rejected by critics, while the levies sparked a trade conflict that poisoned relations with several allies, including the European Union.
The Biden administration late last month announced a deal to lift tariffs on the metals imported from the European Union, but those affecting Japan remain.
Tai was in Tokyo and held meetings with her Japanese counterpart Hagiuda Koichi and Foreign Affairs Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, and agreed to discuss issues including the “challenges from global excess capacity in the steel and aluminum sectors.”
China looms large in the discussions, not just as a major producer of the metals, but due to its forced-technology transfers, massive subsidies and other policies that Washington says undermine free trade.
In the new forum, the United States and Japan will debate “potential approaches to address China’s non-market actions and other policies that threaten the stability and prosperity of the global trading system and for our workers,” according to USTR.
The United States and Japan also revived a trilateral pact that includes the European Union to combat “the global challenges posed by non-market policies and practices of third countries,” the diplomatic language often used to refer to China.
Japan and the United States are among the world’s top steel producers, ranked behind China, the European Union and India, according to data from the World Steel Association.