Japan’s top diplomat dismissed the reports that a trade deal with the United States hit a last-minute snag in New York on Monday, saying “a good ceremony” could be expected.
“Today, our negotiations completely finished. We’re going to have a good ceremony the day after tomorrow when the leaders meet,” said Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s new foreign minister, after meeting with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Motegi said there is “no need to worry” that Washington might impose tariffs higher than existing rates on Japanese automobiles for security reasons, indicating the two countries will have a deal when US President Donald Trump meets on Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
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Earlier on Monday, Reuters reported that the two countries might fall short of signing a trade deal this week while Japanese officials sought assurances that the Trump administration would not impose national security tariffs on Japanese-built cars and auto parts.
Details of the trade deal have not been disclosed, but sources familiar with the talks had confirmed that the limited trade deal between Japan and the US is not expected to include changes to tariffs and trade rules governing autos, the biggest source of the $67.6 billion US trade deficit with Japan.
Trump has refrained thus far from following through on his threat to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on Japanese and European auto and parts imports, citing ongoing trade negotiations with these partners.
Speaking in Tokyo, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also expressed optimism about the deal.
“With the UN General Assembly meeting in mind, we are accelerating the remaining work, including the wording of a trade agreement,” Suga said.
However, executives of two Japanese automakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, had expressed concerns about signing a deal without assurances that Trump would refrain from imposing tariffs on Japanese auto exports as he benefits from Japanese agricultural concessions.
In response to their concerns, Japan had threatened a “sunset clause” that would cancel any trade benefits for the US if Trump imposes the tariffs on Japanese vehicles.
“Inserting an assurance into the deal is crucial for Japan because Trump frequently goes back on his words,” said Yu Qiang, a researcher of Japanese studies at the University of International Relations in Beijing.
“But the tricky question is that Japan does not dare to say that they don’t trust Trump in public,” he said.
Kyodo News contributed to this story.