October 11, 2018
Tokyo- The U.S. White House has removed Vice President Mike Pence's reference to upcoming talks for a free trade agreement with Japan from an official transcript of his speech, Jiji Press learned Wednesday.
In a speech in Washington on Thursday, Pence said the United States "will soon begin historic negotiation for a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan."
But phrase "free trade agreement" was changed to "free-trade deal" in the transcript posted on the White House's website.
The move is believed to be a show of consideration for the Japanese government position that the new bilateral talks will not be about an FTA but a trade agreement on goods, or TAG.
Economic Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has used the transcript as a basis to insist that Pence did not use the term FTA.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed at a summit last month to launch TAG negotiations to open agricultural and other markets further.
The Trump administration seeks to conclude an FTA with Japan. Pence's reference to the FTA in the speech is believed to show the true intentions of the administration.
The White House is believed to have modified the expression out of concerns that the bilateral trade negotiations may stall if Japanese agricultural groups react negatively due to fear of big tariff reductions under an FTA deal.
Tokyo says Washington agreed to respect Japan's position that its trade liberalization resulting from the upcoming negotiations would not go beyond its commitments under the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other existing free trade deals.
But U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said also on Thursday, "I think our goal would be essentially TPP-plus regarding Japan."
The focus is whether the Japanese government can protect the liberalization level under the TPP, not the name of its negotiations with the United States, pundits said. Jiji Press
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