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US agriculture secretary urges Japan to reach trade deal
[TOKYO] US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urged Japan on Monday to move swiftly to clinch a trade deal with Washington on farm products and other goods, in a way that would treat his country fairly as "premier customer."
"President (Donald) Trump is really looking forward to a deal sooner rather than later," Mr Perdue told reporters.
"He would welcome an agreement," Mr Perdue added when asked about a possibility of a trade deal when Trump meets Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan later this month.
"We cannot continue to kick this trade can down the road forever," he said, adding that it was time to get a goal.
However, Mr Perdue also suggested that a quick deal might be difficult.
He said details of negotiations such as the degree and timing of a trade deal are being left to top negotiators of the both countries - US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
"We are very much aware of the elections of the upper body (of Japan's parliament) coming up in July. We are respectful of that, but President Trump is expecting again Japan would treat us as their premier customer as we are."
President Donald Trump, who hosted Mr Abe at the White House last month, had said he hoped to clinch a final deal with Japan in time for his visit to Tokyo on May 25-28.
Trade talks are part of Mr Trump's efforts to make good on his calls for better agreements with its top trading partners - Japan, China and the European Union.
Mr Perdue earlier this month said US officials may seek a quick, narrow pact with Japan.
He spoke to reporters on Monday at a roundtable after he participated in a weekend meeting of G20 agriculture ministers.
The US raised tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 per cent from 10 percent on Friday as it negotiated with China for a deal to fix what it sees as unfair trade imbalance.
US farmers "were disappointed when the China talks fell apart," Mr Perdue added.