WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Japan and the United States made “significant progress” in narrowing their differences on trade and agreed to hold another ministerial-level meeting later this month, Japan’s Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Friday.
While the two countries have not set a specific deadline for a deal, they shared the need to come up with achievements at an early date, Motegi told reporters after his meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington D.C.
When asked whether Tokyo and Washington could reach a deal as early as this month, Motegi said: “That will depend on the outcome of further negotiations ... There’s no doubt we’re making progress in the talks.”
Motegi said he will meet with Lighthizer again some time later this month. He declined to say whether there were plans for Japanese and U.S. leaders to meet on the sidelines of a G7 summit later this month and agree on a trade deal.
“We made significant progress towards reaching an early, good outcome,” Motegi said after his two-day meeting with Lighthizer that ended on Friday. “We’ve been able to narrow our differences quite a lot,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has pressured Tokyo to speed up talks for a two-way trade deal that would open up Japan’s market for U.S. goods, particularly in areas of agriculture, and fix what he sees as a huge bilateral trade imbalance.
Japan is wary of making too many concessions on politically sensitive areas like agriculture, without having Washington agree on cutting tariffs on Japanese auto parts.
Motegi declined to reveal details on how much progress was made on negotiations over agriculture and auto parts. But he said he saw signs the U.S. side was ready to make some concessions.
“I’m starting to get a sense of what the goal would look like,” he said.
Reporting by David Lawder, writing by Leika Kihara in Tokyo; Editing by Cynthia Osterman