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Congressional group vows to boost ties with Japan despite TPP exit

A leader of a U.S. congressional group dedicated to promoting
relations with Japan on Monday voiced eagerness to boost bilateral
economic ties despite Washington's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific
Partnership free trade deal.

Referring to a potential trade deal between Japan and the United
States, Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, a co-chair of the U.S.-Japan
Caucus, said, "Whatever happens with that, we want to make sure that
our economic ties remain as strong as they are now and continue to

Castro was speaking at a reception in Washington for the caucus,
a bipartisan congressional organization with more than 100 members.

"I always remind folks back home that our ties with Japan are
deep and our nations represent the first- and third-largest economies
in the world," he said. "We have an incredible opportunity to
continue to grow those economies and that trade relationship."

Castro made the remarks as the two governments are reportedly
considering holding the first round of a high-level bilateral
economic dialogue on April 18 in Tokyo.

The dialogue, to be led by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro
Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, will cover trade and
macroeconomic policy as well as infrastructure and energy projects.

Officials have not ruled out the possibility of exploring a
bilateral FTA that would cover nearly 30 percent of the world economy.
Speaking at the reception, Japanese ambassador to the United
States Kenichiro Sasae said the two countries' cooperation in defense
is especially important at a time of increased tensions in East Asia
linked to North Korea's ballistic missile launches in defiance of
U.N. Security Council resolutions.

But citing a robust Japan-U.S. alliance, Sasae said, "I'm quite
confident that our alliance never gives a misleading signal to North
Korea," and that Tokyo and Washington will step up cooperation in
boosting defense and deterrence capabilities.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal from the
TPP soon after taking office in January, leaving Japan as the largest
economy participating in the trade pact encompassing 11 Asian and
Pacific Rim nations. (March 27)