Japan and the United States on Monday agreed to launch negotiations to resolve a dispute over Washington's higher tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that were imposed by former U.S. President Donald Trump's administration.
Meeting with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Tokyo, trade and industry minister Koichi Hagiuda called for the abolishment of the additional duties on those products from Japan, government officials said.
The meeting, which lasted about one hour and 20 minutes, was organized after the United States ended a similar dispute last month with the European Union and is now allowing a certain quantity of European steel and aluminum to enter duty-free.
Hagiuda and Raimondo also decided to set up a new partnership aimed at bolstering industrial competitiveness, supply chains for key parts, including semiconductors and those linked to 5G networks, and economic security, according to their joint statement.
"Through today's discussions, I hope we can further expand the cooperative relations between the two countries," Hagiuda said at the meeting.
Raimondo responded the "Department of Commerce's commitment to Japan is unwavering as it is our desire to strengthen our economic partnerships with like-minded countries."
The department views China's steel overproduction as a problem for the U.S. economy and needs to be addressed globally.
The Japan-U.S. Commercial and Industrial Partnership was established to maintain a free and fair economic order and address climate change and other shared global challenges, the statement said.
On her first Asia trip since assuming the post in March, Raimondo met with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno in the afternoon.
During their meeting, Hayashi also called for scrapping the extra duties, to which she responded she will place a priority on dealing with the issue, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Matsuno also said after meeting her, "I conveyed my hope for Secretary Raimondo's leadership in concluding Japan-U.S. consultations at an early date toward abolishing the additional tariffs on steel and aluminum."
Since 2018, the United States has been imposing extra duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports due to claims of potential national security risks under Trump's "America First" foreign and trade policy.
The EU responded with a retaliatory measure but agreed on Oct. 30 to end the dispute. Japan, in contrast, has not taken a countermeasure but has repeatedly asked for the situation to be normalized.
"The United States and Japan will seek to resolve bilateral concerns in this area (of steel and aluminum)," the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Friday in a statement, just ahead of the visit to Japan by its chief Katherine Tai and Raimondo.
The start of talks on the steel issue with Japan will "present an opportunity to promote high standards, address shared concerns, including climate change, and hold countries like China that support trade-distorting non-market policies and practices to account," the USTR statement said.
Raimondo will make a two-day visit to Singapore from Tuesday and travel to Malaysia on Thursday.
The trip comes on the heels of U.S. President Joe Biden's announcement that his administration will develop what he calls an "economic framework that will define our shared objectives with partners in the region."
Tai will arrive in Japan for a three-day visit on Tuesday in her first Asian trip since taking up her position with the Biden administration. She will then make stops in South Korea and India.