Japan-US launch talks to resolve dispute over tariffs

AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi during their meeting in Tokyo on Monday.

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. and Japanese officials agreed Monday to launch talks aimed at settling a dispute over American tariffs on imports of Japanese steel and aluminum.

The agreement came in a meeting between visiting U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Japan’s industry minister, Koichi Hagiuda, Japanese officials said.

Japan hopes to convince Washington to lift tariffs imposed during President Donald Trump’s administration. The U.S. recently resolved a similar dispute with the European Union.

Trump ordered the tariffs, 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminum, in March 2018, asserting they would protect U.S. jobs and national security.

Hagiuda made it clear in the meeting that Japan wants the tariff issue “completely” resolved, in line with the World Trade Organization, ministry officials said after the talks. Japan considers U.S. tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum imported from Japan as “problematic,” they said.

Late last week, the Commerce Department issued a statement announcing the start of consultations with Japan by Raimondo and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai “to address global steel and aluminum excess capacity, take effective measures to ensure the long-term viability of our steel and aluminum industries, and find solutions to strengthen our democratic alliance.”

Excess steel and aluminum capacity has worsened over the decades as China ramped up its output to levels that dwarf production by other nations. China produced 1.06 billion tons of crude steel in 2020, according to the World Steel Association. The next largest producer, India, put out 100 million tons, while Japan produced 83.7 million tons and the U.S. nearly 73 million tons.

China also accounts for more than half of all world aluminum output.

The two sides also issued a statement saying they will set up the “Japan-U.S. Commercial and Industrial Partnership.” The Commerce Department and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said they are “committed to working through JUCIP to strengthen the competitiveness, resiliency, and security of both economies.”

“Rebuilding alliances with our like-minded partners is essential to strengthening United States’s global competitiveness,” Raimondo said early Monday in a tweet showing Mt. Fuji.

Raimondo is expected to visit Malaysia and Singapore after Tokyo. Japanese officials said she stressed the importance of strong Japan-U.S. ties and leadership in the Indo-Pacific region. The two leaders also agreed to cooperate in coping with other challenges such as climate change.