September 19, 2019
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US, Japan finalize talks on new trade pact

Biarritz, France, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- The United States and Japan finalized negotiations on a new trade agreement that will enable Washington to increase its agricultural exports to the Asian country, US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Sunday.

The agreement will allow US producers to increase their agricultural and livestock exports, along with other products, totaling "billions of dollars," Trump said in later remarks to reporters with Abe.

Both leaders said that certain details still remain to be ironed out in the final text, which could be signed next month during the United Nationsl General Assembly meeting in New York.

The accord focuses on three areas: agriculture, industrial products and digital commerce.

Given that the latest Chinese reprisals in the bilateral trade war launched by Trump have negatively affected a good portion of US agricultural exports to the Asian giant, Trump focused on emphasizing the advantages for the farming sector in the pact reached with Japan.

Specifically, he said that Japan will buy "hundreds of millions of dollars" worth of US corn after China failed to fulfill its commitment to buy that product from US farmers, although he emphasized that other markets valued at up to $7 billion per year in other US exports would also be opening up as a result of the pact.

"It's very good news for our farmers and ranchers," US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, adding that the US would be able to sell not only more corn to Japan, but also more beef, pork, wheat, dairy products, wine and ethanol.

The new trade deal with Japan, long a staunch US ally, will give Trump at least one key achievement at the G7 summit, although he has been at odds with other allies during the meeting hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Specifically, he said that Japan is the main buyer of US beef valued at $2 billion per year and that this agreement will enable to US to compete in that country with exports from countries in the European Union and in the Pacific.

Lighthizer added that the agreement will enable Japan to avoid having the US increase tariffs on Japanese automobiles.

Abe said that the pact had been finalized after "intense negotiations," adding that it will have "an immense economic impact" on both countries.

But the Japanese premier went on to say that the bigger purchases of US corn and perhaps other products are due to Japanese problems with crop disease that have caused an "emergency" situation and the "need to import some agricultural products."

That statement by Abe seems to indicate that some of Japan's purchases of US goods could be temporary, although that point was not clarified either by him or by Trump.

Japanese Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said that the conclusion of the negotiations constitutes an "important achievement" and the aim is "to complete the pending work as soon as possible."

Related content

Macron holds "positive" meeting with Iranian FM

(Update 1: Adds Zarif meeting with Macron and more details)

Biarritz, France, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday held a "positive" meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif, a source inside the Elysee Palace said.

The Iranian official is visiting the southwestern French town of Biarritz, where he is expected to engage in new discussions with various European officials on the sidelines of the ongoing G7 summit, the source added.

Germany and the United Kingdom, also signatories to the nuclear deal struck with Iran designed to keep it from developing nuclear weapons, have been "associated" with the meetings with Zarif, according to the source.

US President Donald Trump - long at odds with the Iranians - was previously notified of Zarif's visit, the source added.

"Iran's active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues," Zarif posted to his Twitter account.

"Met Emmanuel Macron on sidelines of #G7Biarritz after extensive talks with (Foreign Minister) JY_LeDrian & Finance Min. (Bruno Le Maire) followed by a joint briefing for UK/Germany," the tweet read. "Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying."

German and British diplomats joined the talks between Zarif and Macron, which lasted for over three hours, but no US representatives participated, according to the source inside the Elysee Palace.

Zarif's visit came "in coordination with the United States," the source added, without providing more details about the exact time Trump was notified of the Iranian official's visit.

The United States imposed sanctions on Zarif on July 31 for being the "chief spokesman" for the Iranian regime worldwide, a move that, in practice, excluded the Iranian from any hypothetical future dialogue between Washington and Tehran.

The meeting ended around 7:30 pm local time, but contacts will continue "overnight and tomorrow morning" with the aim of reaching a preliminary deal, the Elysee Palace added.

The decision to set up the meeting came about last night during a dinner with G7 leaders hosted by Macron.

French diplomatic sources said that "there were elements that allowed a good convergence," adding that Zarif does not plan to meet with US representatives in Biarritz.

The plane from Tehran carrying Zarif landed in Biarritz at 14:13 local time on Sunday.

Earlier in the day the G7 summit officially kicked off with all leaders participating in a roundtable discussion amid reports that Macron had been tasked with mediating discussions between Iran and the US.

The French president, however, has since denied that report.

"The G7 is not ... a structured organization that has mandates and competencies. We are seven sovereign countries that agree on things around a table," the French premier said.

Macron did say that France's intentions to hold talks with Iran were just one of many and that other states such as Japan were also keen to be involved in ensuring that one of the principal objectives of the G7 is met: to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons and to guarantee regional stability and de-escalation of tensions.

When Trump was asked about the alleged plan at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he said he had not discussed the plan with Macron.

"We'll do our own outreach. But you can't stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk," Trump told reporters.

Macron has also spoken to the press to deny reports that he would be mediating talks.

The G7 will wrap up its yearly meeting on Monday, Aug. 26. EFE-EPA


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