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US and Japan Start Next Round of Accelerated Trade Talks

U.S. and Japanese negotiators began a second round of trade talks in Washington on Thursday as they aim to secure a speedy deal focused on agriculture and vehicles.

Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, while Finance Minister Taro Aso is holding a separate discussion with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, which is expected to touch on currencies. On Friday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to meet President Donald Trump in Washington.

The U.S. is pushing to reduce its trade deficit with Japan and gain better access to the Asian nation’s agriculture market. For its part, Japan is looking for a concrete promise that it won’t be hit by possible U.S. tariffs on autos imports, similar to duties imposed by the Trump administration last year on steel and aluminum on national security grounds.

Motegi said last week, during the first round of negotiations, that the sides are aiming for an “early” agreement. “I’d like to also have fruitful discussions today,” he said on Thursday afternoon as he headed into talks with Lighthizer.

U.S. farmers are also agitating for a quick resolution. Almost 90 agricultural organizations said in a letter to Lighthizer this week that U.S. agricultural products are losing ground after Japan cut tariffs for a second time on products from the European Union and some Asia-Pacific nations.

After Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership soon after his inauguration, the 11 other members including Japan went ahead without the U.S. to forge a successor deal called the CPTPP. U.S. farmers say they’ve been left at a disadvantage by that pact, and another that Abe struck in 2018 with the European Union.