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Japan, U.S. to set up working-level talks on trade, infrastructure

The Japanese and U.S. governments will set up at least eight
working-level groups this month in such areas as trade and
infrastructure under the bilateral dialogue launched in response to
President Donald Trump's campaign vow to reduce the U.S. trade
deficit with Japan, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The working groups will be created under the economic talks
between Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice
President Mike Pence. The second round of talks is scheduled for Oct.
17 in Washington.

Partly due to delays in personnel appointments by Trump, no
talks have been held since the first in April in Tokyo.

Additionally, an informal meeting between Aso and Pence planned
for Tuesday was canceled so Aso can remain in Japan to deal with
escalating tension with North Korea.

The working groups will cover topics in line with the three
agreed policy pillars in the talks -- common strategy on trade and
investment rules, cooperation in economic and structural policies,
and sectoral cooperation.

As for economic and structural policies, one working group will
discuss corporate tax evasion and macroeconomic issues. The
governments also plan to create at least five groups to cover
infrastructure, cyber security, energy and other issues under the
sectoral cooperation pillar. The sources say the U.S. side is asking
to set up even more groups.

Two groups are expected to study rules pertaining to investment
and to trade in areas including agriculture and automobiles.

The Japanese side hopes to rack up progress in the working
groups on investment rules and the energy sector so as to avoid
pressure to reduce the U.S. trade deficit by constricting Japanese
exports and market access.

The working-level talks may take up the issue of whether to
review the so-called safeguard tariffs that Tokyo imposed in August
on frozen beef imports, the sources said.

But Tokyo hopes to leave important agendas such as a bilateral
free trade agreement to direct negotiations between Aso and Pence
even if the issue is brought up at the working level, they said.
(Sept. 2)