Ross, US Secretary of Commerce, to join economic dialogue with Japan: source

© Reuters. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gives a press conference at the Commerce Department in Washington.

TOKYO (Reuters) – US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is expected to join Vice President Mike Pence for a bilateral economic dialogue in Tokyo next month, a Japanese government official with direct knowledge of the preparations said Thursday. , frustrating Tokyo’s hope of leaving thorny issues in trade. off the negotiating table.

The dialogue participants, led by Pence and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, will hold their first round of talks in Tokyo on April 18 to discuss issues ranging from macroeconomic policy, infrastructure investment and trade.

The dialogue will be an important test of US President Donald Trump‘s trade confrontational approach. Senior administration officials, including Ross, have signaled they will pressure Japan to remove tariff-free trade barriers and buy more American goods.

Japan, which proposed the dialogue, hoped to keep controversial issues such as the auto and agricultural trade out of the talks by proposing an agenda focused on investment in infrastructure and energy.

One of Tokyo’s strategies was to keep the bilateral dialogue as informal as possible so that Aso can deal directly with Pence, who is seen as having a less adversarial view on trade compared to others in the Trump administration, Japanese government officials said. .

“The agenda is vague now, but if frictions arise in the future, our plan is to say that we discuss that in the Aso-Pence dialogue and then use the dialogue to publicize any issues,” one of the officials said on condition of anonymity. since he was not authorized to speak in public.

Ross’s participation raises the possibility that the dialogue will serve as a venue to discuss a bilateral trade agreement, which could put Japan under pressure from the United States to open heavily protected areas such as agriculture and pharmaceuticals, officials said. .

Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s ministry of economy, trade and industry, and Foreign Minister Fumiko Kishida will also join the dialogue, government officials said.

Ross is known to have close ties to Japan, having led a company that invested in the country since 1997 and served as president of the Japan Society, a non-profit organization that promotes bilateral relations, since 2010.

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