Japan-US Launch Talks to Resolve Dispute Over Tariffs

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 minister of economy, trade and industry, 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 in a deal officials said addresses excess capacity that can distort the steel market. It patched up a trans-Atlantic rift and is meant to create a framework for reducing the carbon-intensity of steel and aluminum production that contributes to the warming of the earth.

Trump ordered the extra 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, trade and industry ministry officials said after the talks. Japan considers U.S. tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum imported from Japan as "problematic," they said.

Raimondo responded to a request by Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi during a meeting Monday to scrap the extra tariffs on Japanese steel and aluminum exports to the United States by saying she planned to tackle the issue as a priority, the Foreign Ministry 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."

"It is so important for both of our countries and coordination in these key areas is essential for our global economic recovery, and our ability to seize our opportunities in a post-pandemic world," Raimondo said in opening remarks to the meeting.

She said "the Department of Commerce's commitment to Japan is unwavering, as is our desire to strengthen our economic partnerships with like-minded countries."

Raimondo is expected to visit Malaysia and Singapore after Tokyo. Tai is visiting Japan for several days beginning Tuesday.

Japanese officials said Raimondo stressed the importance of strong Japan-U.S. ties and leadership in the Indo-Pacific region. The two officials also agreed to cooperate in coping with other challenges such as climate change.

"For Japan and the United States that lead the global economy and share values such as free and fair economic order, it is essential that we strengthen economic and technological cooperation including supply chain resilience," Hagiuda said.