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'Let's talk'

Japan hopes low-key strategy averts trade problems with US

Economic talks between the United States and Japan, tackling topics from persimmons and potatoes to energy and infrastructure, have helped keep Tokyo clear of protectionist moves.

Japan hopes the ‘let’s talk’ approach -and close personal ties between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump- will keep the friction in check. But officials and lawmakers say the outlook could change if the unpredictable US leader turns his attention to Tokyo’s 7 trillion yen ($63.62 billion) trade surplus. reports that although trade relations could have been a theme, the US-Japan security alliance in the face of North Korea’s threats will probably take precedence during Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Japan, this week.

While in Tokyo, Pence will not hold a formal third round of the so-called ‘economic dialogue’ with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso. The two last met for a second round in October, when, among other things, they agreed to lift restrictions on Japanese persimmon exports and US Idaho potato imports.

“Japan’s strategy could be said to be very simple: keep the channels of economic dialogue open,” said one Japanese government source.

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