POLITICS

US trade rep seeks close economic security ties in Asia

Apr 19, 2023, 5:47 AM | Updated: 9:00 pm

TOKYO (AP) — The United States hopes to deepen trade ties with Japan as it fortifies cooperation on economic security with its Asian allies and partners, the top U.S. trade envoy said Thursday.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s visit to Tokyo, her fourth since she was appointed, follows a trip to the Philippine capital, Manila, to help fortify trade relations among the three countries as they build both economic and defense ties.

Speaking Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Tai pointed to a new trade partnership that she said has brought “tangible results for our workers, small businesses, and producers on both sides of the Pacific.”

That includes an agreement to lift limits on U.S. exports of beef to Japan and a new biofuels policy to facilitate exports of more ethanol to Japan. On Wednesday, Tai met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to discuss making supply chains more resilient and secure, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Tai also reviewed the status of negotiations on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, a new trade pact proposed by Washington, emphasizing the importance of cooperation with Japan, the ministry said.

The framework has 13 members, including the U.S., that account for 40% of global gross domestic product: Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Hayashi responded by welcoming more U.S. engagement in the regional economy, saying Japan will proactively discuss the plan with other partners.

Japan and the United States have been promoting multilateral cooperation, most recently with the Philippines as they share common concern over China’s growing influence and assertiveness in both security and economic activities.

The U.S. has stepped up diplomacy across the region, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken stopping over the weekend in Vietnam, which Washington sees as a key component of its strategy for the region given the country’s traditional rivalry with its much larger neighbor China.

Tai also met Wednesday with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura. The trade ministry said the two discussed strengthening supply chains — an issue that gained urgency amid shortages of computer chips and other goods during the pandemic. They also discussed ways to cooperate in the protection of human rights in business, the ministry said.

Japan and the United States have set up a taskforce that aims to eliminate human rights violations in international supply chains and to ban use of materials from suppliers that subject their workers to inhumane conditions.

To highlight such efforts, Tai toured an outlet of outdoor equipment and clothing retailer Patagonia in Tokyo’s popular Shibuya shopping and business district.

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US trade rep seeks close economic security ties in Asia