Talks about a U.S.-Japan free trade agreement are unlikely when leaders of the two countries meet for talks later this week, an adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
Instead Abe will raise broader economic talks including trade, energy and investment at the summit Friday, Yasutoshi Nishimura told Bloomberg in an interview Monday. He added any such bilateral FTA talks are premature given the U.S. is short-handed, as it also has to deal with renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as talks with the U.K. in the wake of Brexit.
President Donald Trump has taken the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying he prefers bilateral trade agreements.
“Abe is going to talk about how we can widen the importance and value of the TPP to the Asia-Pacific region in the economic talks with the U.S.,” Nishimura said. “I don’t think an FTA will be discussed.”
Nishimura, former vice minister in charge of TPP, said he hopes the U.S. will eventually understand the importance of multilateral trade pacts though it will likely take at least a year. “We will put TPP on the corner of the table and leave it that way for a moment.”
Japan joined the TPP in 2013 on expectations the pact would be a counterweight to rising Chinese influence, by setting trade rules among Asia-Pacific nations that share common values. Japan sees the U.S. commitment to the pact as indispensable while Australia claims the pact will still work without the U.S.