Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump sign a joint statement on a new trade agreement at their meeting in New York on Sept. 25. (Takeshi Iwashita)

  • Photo/Illustraion

NEW YORK--Japan promised to lower tariffs on major farm imports from the United States, but the two countries did not include wording in their agreement on reducing U.S. tariffs on Japanese automobiles and car parts.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump signed a joint statement here on Sept. 25 regarding new bilateral agreements on general trade and digital trade issues.

Before signing the agreement, Trump told reporters: “This is a huge victory for America’s farmers, ranchers and growers. And that’s very important to me.”

Under the agreement, Japan’s 38.5-percent tariff on U.S. beef imports would be immediately lowered to the levels set for members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement. Immediately after taking office, Trump pulled the United States out of that arrangement.

The Japanese tariff will be gradually reduced until it reaches 9 percent in April 2033.

Tariffs on U.S. pork and other major farm products would also be reduced to the levels set in the TPP, while the levy on U.S. wine would be eliminated in April 2025.

“We have reached a win-win agreement for both nations that will provide benefits to all the peoples of our nations, from consumers and producers to workers,” Abe told reporters.

The U.S. government has been contemplating tacking additional tariffs on Japanese car imports based on Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act. The joint statement included wording that said, “While faithfully implementing these agreements, both nations will refrain from taking measures against the spirit of these agreements and this joint statement.”

Japanese government officials explained the wording meant that no additional tariffs would be imposed, and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi also said that Abe confirmed the matter with Trump during their meeting.

But the latest wording only follows expressions used in a joint statement issued in autumn 2018. The verbal “confirmation” given by Trump was also similar to what was said at the bilateral meeting.

The U.S. president has touched upon imposing new tariffs in the future, so the possibility of such a move has not been completely eliminated.

Under the TPP agreement, the United States’ 2.5-percent tariff on automobiles would be eliminated in the 25th year of the agreement while the mainly 2.5-percent tariff on car parts would be immediately removed for more than 80 percent of components.

Japan’s latest agreement with the United States contains no clear wording on when tariffs would be eliminated. It only contains a provision that says tariffs would be eliminated after further negotiations.

Tokyo and Washington plan to sign the new trade agreement in early October.

The Japanese government will seek ratification of the agreement in the extraordinary Diet session to be held in autumn so that the agreement can take effect after the turn of the year.

(This article was written by Hideki Kitami, Naoatsu Aoyama and Takashi Narazaki.)