TOKYO, March 10 Japan on Friday rejected U.S.
demands for more access to Japan's auto market, saying the
government has already taken steps to eliminate tariffs and
The rebuff by the government's top spokesman came in reply
to a statement the U.S. government submitted to the World Trade
Organization on Wednesday saying, "a variety of non-tariff
barriers impede access to Japan's automotive market."
The U.S. government also said Japan's agriculture sector
remains protected by "substantial" barriers, offering the
clearest indication yet of where battle lines will be drawn in a
new economic dialogue between the two countries.
"We do not impose import tariffs on cars, and we do not
impose any non-tariff barriers," Chief Cabinet Secretary
Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
"Our position is that Japan's auto market is already open.
This is something that will be settled in our bilateral
In 2015 the U.S. government submitted a similar statement to
the WTO as part of a regular review of Japan's trade policies,
but this year's statement could carry more weight given the new
U.S. administration's emphasis on renegotiating trade deals.
Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice
President Mike Pence will chair a joint dialogue that could
re-write economic ties between the world's largest and
Japanese officials have indicated that they would prefer the
talks focused on infrastructure, foreign direct investment and
energy to avoid more thorny issues like autos and agriculture.
Japanese media say the dialogue could start as early as next
month, but the White House has made no official announcement.
U.S. President Donald Trump rattled Japanese policymakers by
criticising the small number of U.S. auto exports to Japan
shortly after taking office in January.
Trump has also clearly indicated that he prefers to curb
free trade to protect U.S. jobs, raising fears of a return to
trade friction that marred U.S.-Japan relations in the 1980s.
(Reporting by Stanley White and Kaneko Kaori; Editing by Kim