Posts Tagged ‘Taro Aso’

G-7 Members Condemn U.S. Trade Actions

June 3, 2018

Ministers of developed nations express ‘unanimous concern and disappointment’ with U.S. tariffs

Philip Hammond, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, center, leaves following a group photo during the G-7 finance ministers and central-bank governors meeting in Whistler, British Columbia.
Philip Hammond, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, center, leaves following a group photo during the G-7 finance ministers and central-bank governors meeting in Whistler, British Columbia. PHOTO: DARRYL DYCK/BLOOMBERG NEWS


WHISTLER, British Columbia—Six finance ministers, representing some of the closest allies of the U.S., issued a stern rebuke of the protectionist policies of the administration of President Donald Trump, signaling a deep rift in the relations underpinning the post-World War II trading system.

The ministers of the six non-U.S. members of the Group of Seven industrialized nations—the host Canada, along with France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and Japan—on Saturday issued a joint statement excluding the U.S., and conveying their “unanimous concern and disappointment” with the U.S. decision last week to impose tariffs on steel and aluminumimported from the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking to reporters after the meetings, acknowledged the split, saying “there was clearly a consensus from the rest of them” on the issue of trade, adding that he had discussed the meetings on Friday with President Trump. Despite the clash on trade, however, Mr. Mnuchin said: “There were many, many areas, not only do we agree on, we’re completely united on.”

Rarely has the G-7, a club of industrialized nations formed around common interests, issued such strong condemnation of one of its members. Even more unlikely is the fact that the target of the criticism is the U.S., which has done more than any other country to establish the free-trade principles upon which the global economy functions today.

A frequent theme among the non-U.S. members was their distaste over Washington justifying its tariffs on national-security grounds. The White House has said the tariffs imposed last week—25% on steel and 10% on aluminum—were designed to address the role steel imports have played in undermining the viability of the U.S. steel industry, without which the country would have difficulty mobilizing for its defense.

The Trump administration has signaled its intent to use a similar security argument to affix tariffs on cars from Germany and Japan, and industrial supplies from China. It also used the national-security argument to impose tariffs on steel imports from Canada, its neighbor to the north.

“Our absolute view is that this is absurd to think that Canada could in any way be a security risk to the United States,” Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters at the conference.

The six nations issued the joint statement despite the presence of Mr. Mnuchin. The aim of the meeting, the communiqué said, “should be to restore collaborative partnerships to promote free, fair, predictable and mutually beneficial trade.”

The statement, released by Canada, said that “collaboration and cooperation has been put at risk by [U.S.] trade actions against other members.”

The strong language sets the stage for a difficult meeting in one week when the heads of state of the G-7 will meet in Charlevoix, Quebec, signaling a clear intention of other member nations to confront the U.S. over its recent trade policies.

“I do not ever recall an instance where the U.S. was singled out for rebuke,” said Daniel Price, managing director of Rock Creek Global Advisors, who served as the sherpa representing the George W. Bush administration for G-7, G-20, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits. “Traditionally the U.S. has been a driver of G-7 unity, and typically leads efforts to reach consensus. On trade, the U.S. has quite dramatically become a source of discord and division.”

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire quipped to reporters that the meeting in Whistler was the “G-6 plus one,” with the clear implication that the U.S. was on the outside.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, denied the U.S. had been left outside the consensus on all matters taken up at the Whistler meeting.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, right, denied the U.S. had been left outside the consensus on all matters taken up at the Whistler meeting. PHOTO: BEN NELMS/REUTERS

Mr. Mnuchin denied the U.S. was left outside the consensus on all matters, and insisted Washington is playing a central role in the group: “I don’t think in any way the U.S. is abandoning its leadership in the global economy,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

“These are our most important allies,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “We’ve had longstanding relationships with all these countries that are very important across all different aspects.”

The meeting in this mountain resort town in British Columbia was designed for ministerial-level representatives of each country’s government to set a common agenda ahead of the heads of state meeting next week.

And yet, in session after session, Mr. Mnuchin bore the brunt of criticism for the Trump administration’s unilateral move to impose tariffs on the other members of the G-7.

“We can say the U.S. went into the tariff issue alone and they remain alone around the table,” said Mário Centeno, the Portuguese finance minister who participates at the G-7 by virtue of being the president of the Eurogroup, the association of eurozone finance ministers, in an interview.


G7 countries condemn US in rebuke over tariffs

June 3, 2018
Bitter rift in democratic alliance follows escalating tensions over Trump trade policies

No automatic alt text available.

Sam Fleming in Washington

America’s G7 allies on Saturday condemned Donald Trump’s decision to hit his trading partners with tariffs on steel and aluminium in a remarkable public rebuke of the group’s most powerful member following days of escalating tensions over trade.
A so-called chair’s summary released by G7 host nation Canada after meetings of finance ministers and central bankers on Saturday called for decisive action to address the tariffs in a forthcoming gathering of the group’s leaders.

Many ministers attending the G7 meetings in Whistler highlighted the “negative impact of unilateral trade actions by the United States,” the statement said. “Concerns were expressed that the tariffs imposed by the United States on its friends and allies, on the grounds of national security, undermine open trade and confidence in the global economy.”

It is rare to see such a bitter rift in the G7, a group of democracies that traces its roots back to the 1970s – much less open criticism by its membership of the US, which normally is a leading force in guiding its agenda. But Mr Trump’s decision to pursue protectionist measures against countries that count themselves as America’s closest economic and military partners has infuriated and alarmed politicians in other capitals.

“Unfortunately the actions of the United States this week risk undermining the very values that traditionally have bound us together,” said Canada’s finance minister Bill Morneau in a statement.

The public criticism of the US in Whistler further raises the stakes ahead of a summit of leaders including Mr Trump next week in Charlevoix. It comes as leading US partners including Canada and the EU prepare retaliatory measures following America’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

Mr Morneau told reporters following the meetings that there had been consensus outside the US that the Trump administration’s actions were “destructive to our ability to get things done”. US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin had been asked to convey the “regret and disappointment” felt by G7 partners to the president, he said.

Mr Mnuchin acknowledged the sentiments expressed by America’s partners but insisted after the gathering that the US was not abdicating its position at the helm of the world economy. “I don’t think in any way the US is abandoning its leadership in the global economy – quite the contrary,” he said in a press conference, citing the strength of the recent recovery following Republican-led tax cuts in December.

However, in the meetings finance ministers repeatedly urged the US to reverse its decision to impose levies on metal imports. Taro Aso, Japan’s finance minister, called the US action “deeply deplorable” in comments to reporters. Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, referred acerbically to the G6 plus one. The discussions, he said later, had been tense and difficult. “We cannot understand the American decisions on steel and aluminium. The ball is in the US court,” he said on Twitter.

US allies on both sides of the Atlantic have angrily cited their close ties with the US and shared sacrifices in past wars alongside the country as they condemned America’s steps. Brussels has said it will enact retaliatory tariffs on US exports and bring a case to the WTO, while Canada said it would impose tariffs on up to $12.8bn worth of US imports.

Nevertheless, as the G7 finance minister and central bank governors’ meetings wrapped up on Saturday, Mr Trump reiterated his demands on trade on social media, saying the US must “at long last be treated fairly on Trade”.

He added: “If we charge a country ZERO to sell their goods, and they charge us 25, 50 or even 100 percent to sell ours, it is UNFAIR and can no longer be tolerated. That is not Free or Fair Trade, it is Stupid Trade!”

The debate in Whistler came as US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross holds talks in China this weekend aimed at reaching an accord with Beijing over the two countries’ trade differences. Mr Trump cast those discussions into further doubt earlier in the week by threatening to impose tariffs on $50bn of Chinese goods.

The G7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Japan’s Taro Aso: “There is no such thing as a sexual harassment charge.” But his deputy repeatedly made sexually suggestive comments to a TV reporter

May 8, 2018

Japan’s Finance Minister  Taro Aso says “There is no such thing as a sexual harassment charge.”

Image result for Finance Minister Taro Aso, photos

Finance Minister Taro Aso may not be smiling for too much longer….

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Finance Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday repeated a comment that appeared to downplay an incident of alleged sexual harassment by his ministry’s top bureaucrat after already sparking protest demonstrations in a number of Japanese cities the day before.

“There is no such thing as a sexual harassment charge,” the 77-year-old former prime minister said at a regular press conference, the same remark he made on Friday during a trip to Manila.

The comment, which appeared to make light of the claims that then-Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda had repeatedly made sexually suggestive comments to a TV reporter, has drawn sharp reactions from women’s rights activists, with some calling it misogynistic and permissive of sexual harassment.

Asked by reporters about such public criticisms, Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, said he had “merely stated a fact” while adding he has no intention of tolerating sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment perpetrators can be charged with sexual assault, rape or libel in Japan.

Seiko Noda, a minister in charge of female empowerment, said Tuesday she plans to compile legal measures to tackle sexual harassment during the ongoing Diet session.

Noda, 57, who also serves as internal affairs minister, indicated Monday she would consider introducing penalties for sexual harassment.

She also said Aso belongs to a generation that has not learned about sexual harassment and has “a totally different perception” from that of her generation.

Following Aso’s initial comments, protestors, including many women’s rights groups, took to the streets on Monday. Some lined the sidewalk in front of the Finance Ministry building in central Tokyo, while others held demonstrations in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Sapporo.

Fukuda stepped down in late April after a weekly magazine reported that he asked the reporter “Can I give you a hug?” and “Can I touch your breasts?” and released an audio clip.

The former top bureaucrat has denied the allegations although the ministry has acknowledged he sexually harassed the female reporter and reduced his retirement benefits.

Aso himself has faced growing calls from opposition lawmakers to resign for having chosen Fukuda for the position.

The close ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has often made controversial comments.

In August, Aso came under fire for comments that seemed to defend Adolf Hitler’s motive behind the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany.

“Hitler, who killed millions of people, is no good even if his motive was right,” he said. Aso later said he meant to give an example of a bad politician but retracted the remark.


U.S. Hints at a China Truce as World Warns of Trade-War Threat

April 22, 2018
  • Treasury’s Mnuchin considers China trip amid trade dispute
  • IMF member nations warn that trade tensions threaten growth

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he’s considering a trip to China amid a trade dispute with Beijing that finance chiefs warn could derail the global economic upswing.

Mnuchin speaks during a briefing at the IMF spring meetings April 21.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Mnuchin said he’s “cautiously optimistic” of reaching an agreement with China that bridges their differences over trade.

“A trip is under consideration,” Mnuchin told reporters on Saturday in Washington at the IMF’s spring meetings. “I’m not going to make a comment on timing, nor do I have anything confirmed.”

A visit by the U.S. Treasury secretary to China could signal a breakthrough in the spat between the world’s two-biggest economies, whose threats to slap tariffs on each other have rattled markets and raised fears of a trade war. It would come at a sensitive time for the region’s geopolitics, with negotiations under way on a planned meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

Mnuchin’s remarks came as finance ministers and central bankers at the IMF meetings gave their latest economic assessments, often citing trade as a threat looming over the strongest upswing in seven years.

Global growth has strengthened and is increasingly broad based, the IMF’s main advisory committee said Saturday. However, it noted that “rising financial vulnerabilities, increasing trade and geopolitical tensions, and historically high global debt threaten global growth prospects.”

China Meeting

IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton summed up the main takeaway he heard from officials at the meetings this week as “time’s are good but it’s getting risky.”

Mnuchin said he met with Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China, at the IMF gathering this week. The discussions focused on issues related to the Chinese central bank, not trade, said the secretary. Mnuchin said they also discussed China’s planned further opening of some markets, a move that U.S. has encouraged and “appreciated.”

“China will vigorously push forward the reform and opening-up of the financial sector, significantly relax market access restrictions, create a more attractive investment environment, strengthen the protection of intellectual properties and actively expand imports,” Yi said in a statement on Saturday. China has announced plans to gradually remove foreign ownership caps for limits for car-, ship- and aircraft-makers.

Sanctions Help

Mnuchin said China has been “very helpful” in supporting U.S. sanctions against North Korea, and he welcomed Kim’s suspension of nuclear weapons testing that was announced the day earlier.

“We are going to continue the sanctions” and a “maximum pressure” campaign until North Korea abandons its nuclear-weapons program in a verifiable way, he said.

Mnuchin indicated he’s involved in a “dialogue” with the Chinese government to resolve the trade dispute. “We’re cautiously optimistic to see if we can try to reach an agreement,” he said.

Tensions have been escalating as Trump accuses China of unfair trade and presses for a reduction in the the U.S.’s $375 billion trade deficit with the Asian nation. The president is threatening to impose tariffs on as much as $150 billion on Chinese imports to punish the nation for alleged intellectual property theft. If the U.S. follows through, China has vowed to impose retaliatory tariffs on everything from American airplanes to soybeans.

Russia, Japan

Mnuchin also said he met with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov during the IMF meeting, at Russia’s request. Moscow sought “clarification” on U.S. sanctions, Mnuchin said, without elaborating. “These are very important tools. We will continue to look at the use of sanctions in all different areas,” he said.

Siluanov on Friday said he views sanctions as “an instrument of protectionism” and condemned any measures taken against his country.

The U.S. has had discussions with Japan on a possible bilateral trade agreement, the secretary said. Trump had a “very successful” meeting this week in Florida with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mnuchin said.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said he told Mnuchin that protectionism isn’t good. The U.S. and Japan clearly differ on their trade policies, Aso told reporters on Friday after meetings between the Group of 20 on the sidelines of the IMF summit.

— With assistance by Toru Fujioka, Enda Curran, and Xiaoqing Pi


Signaling caution as North Korea pledges to halt nuclear and longer-range missile tests just days before key summit — Many voice skepticism

April 21, 2018

Trust But Verify

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APR 21, 2018

North Korea announced Saturday that it had suspended nuclear and longer-range missile tests and shut down its main nuclear test site as the sanctions-hit country seeks to shift its focus to shoring up its moribund economy, state media said, less than a week before a key inter-Korean summit.

Leader Kim Jong Un called the completion of its nuclear weapons program a “great victory,” and said that “no nuclear test and intermediate-range and inter-continental ballistic rocket test-fire are necessary for the DPRK now.”

“The mission of the northern nuclear test ground has thus come to an end,” he added at a gathering of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

The party decided at the meeting that nuclear tests and ICBM launches would cease as of Saturday — the last long-range missile test was in November — and that the North’s main Punggye-ri nuclear test site will be “dismantled to transparently guarantee” the end of testing, the report said. North Korea has conducted all of its six nuclear tests since 2006 at the Punggye-ri site in the country’s northeast.

Within minutes of the report’s issuance, U.S. President Donald Trump, who is due to hold a planned summit with Kim by June to discuss the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” tweeted: “This is very good news for North Korea and the World- big progress! Look forward to our Summit.”

In a later tweet he noted that North Korea would “shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s Northern Side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear tests.”

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was less sanguine.

“I want to welcome these positive moves, but I wonder if this will lead to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal, weapons of mass destruction and missiles,” Abe said. “I’d like to keep a close eye on the developments.”

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who was in Washington for a meeting with his U.S. counterpart, said Japan still had concerns despite the pledge.

“We can’t be satisfied,” he was quoted as saying, adding that North Korea did not mention the “abandonment of short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles.”

Japan, one of the strongest backers of the U.S.-led “maximum pressure” campaign to push the reclusive state to abandon its nuclear weapons program, will not change its policy of heaping pressure on Pyongyang, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso also voiced skepticism.

“(North Korea) has made a lot of promises and we paid money on the condition that they will give up experiment sites, but they continued,” Aso was quoted as telling reporters in Washington, referring to Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said Kim’s announcement was a step in the right direction but that more must be done.

“Kim Jong Un is simultaneously claiming North Korea has completed all the steps it needs for a nuclear deterrent force and making some important but reversible pledges toward denuclearization,” Kimball said. “His announcement to close the test site is significant but reversible. It is crucial that the U.S. and South Korea and Japan and China must seek ways to solidify the pledge.”

Kimball said doing so “can and should emerge from the summit, but the summit will be, at best, just the first stage of a long denuclearization and normalization process.”

Sheila Smith, a senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, also cautioned against heightened expectations for the meeting.

“The contours of negotiation on how to roll back these programs have yet to emerge, but we should not mistake that a moratorium on testing meets our expectations of what eventually needs to be done,” she said.

Kim is scheduled to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in at Freedom House on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) next Friday, when he will become the first North Korean leader to set foot on South Korean soil. That summit will be just the third ever between the leaders of the two Koreas.

Relations between the North and South, and even between Pyongyang and Washington, have seen a thaw after months of soaring tensions as Pyongyang conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last year and launched more than 20 missiles — including two intermediate-range weapons that flew over Japan and another long-range missile that experts say puts the whole of the United States in striking distance. With the test of that long-range missile in November, the North said it had “realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

South Korea welcomed the North’s announcement Saturday.

“North Korea’s decision is meaningful progress for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which the world wishes for,” the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

“It will create a very positive environment for the success of the upcoming inter-Korean and North-U.S. summits,” it added.

But despite the relatively positive response, Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor at International Christian University in Tokyo, said that the shift in tactics could be part of a more nefarious push — a concerted effort to fracture the maximum pressure strategy.

“He has effectively decreased tensions on the peninsula, reopened relations with China, and moved the diplomatic pendulum away from conflict to dialogue with no costs,” Nagy said of Kim. “Today’s pledges to close nuclear testing facilities and promises to not test missiles cost the regime nothing as they said nothing about denuclearization of their current systems.

“For a young leader, he has managed Pyongyang’s comparative asymmetric strengths and the stakeholders geopolitical pressure points with astonishing skill,” he added.

Still, Moon’s remarks Thursday that Kim isn’t asking for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons offered hope that a divide-and-conquer strategy may not be on his mind.

The North has for decades tied its development of nuclear weapons to what it has labeled a “hostile” U.S. policy — a reference to the 28,500 troops on its “doorstep” in South Korea, as well as the roughly 50,000 troops stationed in Japan.

Kim’s moves are likely aimed at easing long-standing concerns on the South Korean and U.S. side that the North will never give up its nuclear weapons. And his allusions to the possibility of “dramatic changes” have left the door open to the possibility that he could relinquish his arsenal.

Kim told Saturday’s meeting that “a fresh climate of detente and peace is being created on the Korean Peninsula and the region and dramatic changes are being made in the international political landscape.”

Quoting Kim, the KCNA report said the country is shifting its national focus to improving the economy.

Kim, in a reference to his byungjin (dual progress) policy that focuses on the simultaneous development of its economy and nuclear weapons program, “declared with pride that the historic tasks under the strategic line of simultaneously developing the two fronts … were successfully carried out.”

He said that since it was now a powerful state, “the whole party and country” should concentrate on “socialist economic construction,” in what he called the party’s “new strategic line.”

John Delury, an associate professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, said this shift was not entirely unanticipated.

The North Korean leader, Delury said, had since taking power “elevated the relative importance of economic development” to a place it had not seen in years.

But “very few people paid attention to the economic part because we are so focused on the nuclear capabilities,” he said.

“There’s another part to this,” Delury said. “We’ve been so focused on measuring every missile and counting every nuclear test, that we haven’t seen the whole picture from Kim Jong Un’s perspective.

“You zoom out, and the speech that Kim made to the third plenum is about a shift to the economy.”

KYODO — North Korea vows to:

• Shut down Punggye-ri nuclear test site in country’s northeast.

• Suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

• Join international efforts for disarmament.

• Never use nuclear weapons if there is no nuclear threat to the country.

• Concentrate on building a powerful socialist economy.


U.S., Japan Clearly Differ on Trade Policy, Japan’s Aso Says — Japan warns that protectionism will disrupt markets

April 21, 2018

WASHINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) – Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Friday he discussed currencies with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, but only as part of broader discussions on their economies.

In a news conference after the Group of 20 finance leaders meeting, Aso also said he conveyed Japan’s concern over protectionism in the bilateral meeting with Mnuchin. (Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Andrea Ricci)


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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) and Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso on May 12, 2018

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) — Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said he voiced concerns over the U.S. shift toward protectionist trade policies at a meeting Friday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Aso called for Japan to be exempted from the stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that Washington rolled out last month, a Finance Ministry official said.

“I told (Mnuchin) it is undesirable that a trend of inward-looking (policies) is about to be created. The United States has caused a considerable impact,” Aso told a press conference after the meeting, held on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Washington.

Mnuchin said in a tweet that they agreed the United States and Japan “are jointly committed to countering illicit financial activity” by North Korea, which is suspected of evading international sanctions over its nuclear and missile development programs.

Finance chiefs from the G-20 major economies ended their two-day meeting Friday, falling short of producing concrete steps to address threats posed by trade disputes to the global economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized Japan for its trade surplus with the United States, leaving it off a list of allies exempted from the new duties aimed primarily at China. Beijing has responded to the measures with retaliatory action.

The ministry official said Tokyo will continue efforts to gain an exemption and was not considering filing for dispute resolution at the World Trade Organization, as Beijing has done.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was unable to convince Trump to lift the penalties in summit talks earlier this week.

Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, said he and Mnuchin discussed currency moves in passing but did not go into specifics.

“We did not have discussions particularly focused on (foreign exchange policy)”, said Aso.

The Treasury Department last week kept Japan on a list of countries to be monitored for unfair currency manipulation.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that protectionism isn’t good, adding to tensions over trade policy between the two global economic powers.


U.S. and Japan clearly differ on their trade policies, Aso told reporters on Friday in Washington after attending the G-20 meeting of central bankers and finance ministers. The finance minister, who is in charge of Japan’s currency policy, said he and Mnuchin discussed foreign exchange in the context of the global economy.

The divergence over trade was reiterated as the U.S. tries to pursue bilateral negotiations to fix trade imbalances with other nations, while Japan prefers a multilateral pact and hopes the U.S. will rejoin Trans-Pacific Partnership. U.S. President Donald Trump has sent mixed messages about the TPP.

The gathering came after the meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump also highlighted their differences over trade earlier this week, leaving the premier with little to revive falling support for his administration amid a string of scandals.

Aso is also coming home to face pressure to step down as a land-sale scandal and sexual harassment allegations engulf the finance ministry. In Washington, he said he’s not considering resigning, but a political backlash could intensify after Aso attended his first G-20 gathering in a year despite failing to get parliament’s approval.

Earlier in the week in Washington, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who also attended the G-20 gathering, warned against trade protectionism, saying that it won’t be good for the world economy. Kuroda, whose new term started this month, will be chairing the central bank’s monetary policy meeting on April 26-27 with his new deputies.



Japan warns G20 protectionism will disrupt markets

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON Last Updated at April 20, 2018 10:15 IST

By Kihara

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – has warned its counterparts that protectionism and exchange of retaliatory measures will disrupt financial markets and heighten volatility.

“I told my counterparts that no country would benefit from inward-looking policies based on protectionism,” Japan’s told reporters after a dinner gathering of the on Thursday.

In a speech to the and central bank governors, Aso stressed the need to solve global imbalances under a multilateral, not a bilateral, framework.

He also said currency markets remained vulnerable to abrupt shocks that could disrupt emerging market capital flows, as central banks of advanced economies start to dial back their crisis-mode stimulus programmes.

But there were no specific discussions on exchange-rate moves at the gathering, Aso said.

Fears of a global trade war are seen dominating talks at the gathering, with the warning that protectionism could hurt otherwise solid global growth.

Aso’s comments followed a summit earlier this week between Japanese and U.S. Donald Trump, which exposed differences between the two nations on how to frame trade negotiations.

The two leaders agreed to intensify trade consultations to expand bilateral investment and trade. But while Trump reaffirmed his desire to address trade imbalances with through a bilateral trade deal, Abe repeated his call for the to rejoin the multilateral (TPP) deal.

Aso and his U.S. counterpart will meet for bilateral talks on Friday on the sidelines of the and IMF meetings, according to Japan’s 

(Editing by and Jacqueline Wong)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 20 2018. 10:08 IST

Trump’s Currency Complaints Hit Unexpected Targets

February 17, 2017

Top-five trading partners China, Japan and Germany brush them off; Taiwan and Switzerland seem to be paying heed


Feb. 17, 2017 3:47 a.m. ET

HONG KONG—U.S. President Donald Trump’s accusations of currency manipulation appear to be reaching an audience he may not have primarily intended.

Mr. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive American manufacturing, in part by taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and labeling the country a currency manipulator. Since taking office, the president has accused both China and Japan of consistently devaluing their currencies,…

Mr. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive American manufacturing, in part by taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and labeling the country a currency manipulator. Since taking office, the president has accused both China and Japan of consistently devaluing their currencies , while his top trade adviser Peter Navarro has accused Germany of benefiting from what he termed the “grossly undervalued” euro .

All three countries, which rank among the U.S.’s top five trading partners, have brushed off the Trump administration’s claims.

“No one has the right to tell us that the yen is weak,” Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso told parliament on Wednesday, following last weekend’s meeting between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe . Japan hasn’t directly intervened in currency markets since 2011 following a major tsunami and resulting Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“The charge that Germany exploits the U.S. and other countries with an undervalued currency is more than absurd,” Jens Weidmann , the president of the German central bank, said earlier this month.

China hasn’t directly commented on Mr. Trump’s criticisms, but most analysts say Beijing recently has been propping up the yuan by selling foreign-currency reserves rather than looking to weaken it.

Still, some smaller economies look like they are taking notice, notably Taiwan and Switzerland. The U.S. Treasury found in October that both had engaged in persistent, one-way currency intervention, essentially by buying foreign currencies like the U.S. dollar and selling their own to maintain weak exchange rates.

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Analysts say the central banks of Switzerland and Taiwan are now stepping back from those activities, perhaps to avoid closer scrutiny from the Trump administration. The upshot: The Swiss franc has advanced nearly 2% against the U.S. dollar this year, while the new Taiwan dollar has surged 5.3%. Both have outperformed the euro and yen since the U.S. election in early November.

Taiwan’s central bank bought $500 million in foreign currencies in the fourth quarter, well below its quarterly average of more than $3 billion since 2012, according to Khoon Goh , head of Asia research at ANZ in Singapore, who said he suspects it is stepping back from “currency-smoothing operations.” The central bank said it doesn’t comment on currency policy.

For the first nine months of last year, the Swiss National Bank /quotes/zigman/1379668/delayed CH:SNBN +0.12% intervened heavily in currency markets to slow the franc’s rise, spending an amount roughly equivalent to its current-account surplus for the period, J.P. Morgan/quotes/zigman/272085/composite JPM -0.76% analysts note. Over the following four months, the scale dropped to around two-thirds of the surplus.

“It’s not an entirely fanciful suggestion that the SNB might be tapering intervention in order to the guard against the risk of being cited by the U.S. Treasury as a currency manipulator,” the analysts wrote in a note.

The Swiss National Bank declined to comment.

For the U.S. to label an economy a currency manipulator under the current law, it must have a large trade surplus with the U.S. and a hefty current-account surplus and persistently intervene in the currency in one direction. As of October, no economies met all three criteria.

Recent comments from officials in South Korea, which the Treasury has flagged for its hefty trade surplus with the U.S. and its current-account surplus, suggest they’re similarly eager to avoid U.S. ire, says Govinda Finn , senior analyst at Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh. The Korean won has surged 5.2% against the dollar this year.

But any gains in the Korean and Taiwanese currencies due to U.S. political pressure may not last, he said: “On a longer-term horizon, there’s a pretty strong case to say both of those currencies can and will weaken as the authorities look to support their economies.”

Jenny W. Hsu contributed to this article.

Write to Saumya Vaishampayan at

Japan’s Abe hopes promises on jobs, defense will temper Trump’s tone on trade — “What we want to know is Mr. Trump’s attitude towards China.”

February 8, 2017


By Linda Sieg and David Brunnstrom | TOKYO/WASHINGTON

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe heads to Washington on Thursday hoping promises to help create U.S. jobs and bolster Japan’s military will persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to turn down the heat on trade and currency and stand by the decades-old alliance.

Japanese officials have been soothed by security assurances from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others. But they worry Trump may go off script when the two leaders meet, first for a summit in Washington on Friday and then for a round of golf near the “Winter White House” in Florida.

Some in Tokyo even worry that Trump, a global businessman and author of “The Art of the Deal”, might eventually make some sort of pact with rival China that leaves Japan out in the cold.

“What we want to know is Mr. Trump’s attitude towards China,” said Yukio Okamoto, a former Japanese diplomat with ties to the government. “If it becomes only an economic one, then a deal might be made at some point without the consideration of security issues in the region.”

Japanese politicians are also concerned that Abe might make hard-to-keep promises when the two play a round of golf that has echoes of one between Abe’s prime minister grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, and President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957.

U.S. newspapers then dubbed the golf game a “triumph of diplomacy” between the former World War Two enemies. Three years later, Kishi had to resign because of a public furor over the 1960 U.S.-Japan security pact.

The symbolism of playing golf is very important to the Japanese,” said Dennis Wilder, a former National Security Council official. “Abe is very proud of his grandfather and has worked hard to fulfill his unrealized dream of building a full strategic partnership with Washington.”


During his election campaign, Trump complained that Tokyo and Seoul were not sharing enough of the cost of the U.S. security umbrella.

Trump has also lumped Japan with China and Mexico as big contributors to the U.S. trade deficit, targeted its auto trade as “unfair” and accused Tokyo of using monetary policy to devalue its currency to boost exports.

Addressing such concerns, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga said on Wednesday Tokyo’s share of America’s trade deficit had declined from historic highs and Japanese firms have invested in the U.S. significantly.

Japan posted a trade surplus of 6.8 trillion yen with the United States last year, down 4.6 percent from 2015, but U.S.-bound car shipments rose for a second straight year, ministry of finance data showed month.

Abe, who will be accompanied by Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, will bring a package of steps Tokyo says could create 700,000 U.S. jobs through private-public investment in infrastructure such as high-speed trains, government sources say.

Speculation is also simmering that Japanese manufacturers like Toyota Motor Corp,, whose president Akio Toyoda met Abe last week, could time announcements about investment – either already planned or new – to coincide with the summit.

Japanese display maker Sharp Corp may start building a $7 billion plant in the United States this year, a person with knowledge of the plan said on Wednesday.

Hoping to update what Japan believes is Trump’s outdated image of Japan forged in decades-old trade wars, Abe will also be armed with data, showing, for example, that Japanese firms are the biggest direct foreign investor and foreign employer in the United States second only to Britain.


Trump, who has abandoned the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact championed by his predecessor Barack Obama, wants to open talks on a bilateral free trade deal with Tokyo. He also wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) binding Mexico, the United States and Canada, the basis of many Japanese firms’ investment plans.

Abe prefers multilateral trade deals, but has left the door open to talks on a bilateral pact – despite misgivings by some officials that Tokyo would come under intense pressure to open further politically sensitive sectors such as agriculture, while gaining scant economic benefits.

“I don’t think Mr. Abe will say ‘no’ to the bilateral option but I don’t think he will say it is a good idea, either,” one Japanese official said.

Financial markets are keen to see whether Trump repeats his criticism of Japan for using money supply to weaken the yen to boost exports. Japanese sources have made clear Tokyo will push back on any attempts to bind its hands on a hyper-easy monetary policy central to “Abenomics” growth prescriptions.


Abe will be eager for Trump to repeat assurances that his administration will adhere to Washington’s commitment to defend disputed East China Sea islands under Japanese control but claimed also by China. The islands are called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Abe is likely to reassure Trump that Japan is willing to play a bigger regional defense role and beef up its military capabilities. A pledge to boost defense spending, however, could be contentious at home in view of Japan’s huge public debt.

Some experts cautioned that too subservient a response by Abe, such as a government-inspired jobs creation package, risks confirming Trump’s view that old-style Japan bashing works.

“It’s a very difficult line to walk to satisfy Trump at the same time not giving the impression that it’s Japan Inc all over again,” said Jun Okumura, a former trade negotiator who is a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs.

Others, though, said Japan has little choice.

As the Japanese official put it, “We have no choice but to ride with the United States, whoever the president is.”

(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Tetsushi Kajimoto and Takashi Umekawa in Tokyo; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Trump Plan for Tax on Mexico Exports Raises Eyebrows in Asia — US-Mexico crisis deepens as Trump insists Mexico would pay for border wall

January 27, 2017

TOKYO — Talk of a possible 20 percent tax on U.S. imports from Mexico is raising eyebrows in Asia, where exports to the U.S. drive growth in many economies.

Japanese officials said Friday they hoped to soon hold talks on trade with U.S. officials. Finance Minister Taro Aso said the Japanese side should “thoroughly explain” how Japanese companies have been contributing to American society, including creating jobs.

“It would be important to exchange opinions to accurately convey the reality and establish a steady relationship,” Aso told reporters.

President Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said the 20 percent tax was among several options to finance building a wall along the U.S. southern border, but no decision has been made.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (PAYN’-yuh nee-EH’-toh) scrapped a scheduled trip to Washington next week over the issue. He has flatly rejected Trump’s assertion that Mexico will pay for the wall on its border.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto


China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported that Trump was considering the 20 percent tariffs without any editorial comment. However, the report cited unnamed analysts saying Trump would have to withdraw the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, to be able to impose such a tax. Trump has said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA.

Though he did not refer directly to Trump, in remarks marking the eve of the lunar new year on Friday, Premier Li Keqiang said, “Above all, we remain convinced that economic openness serves everyone better, at home and abroad.

“The world is a community of shared destiny. It’s far preferable for countries to trade goods and services and bond through investment partnerships than to trade barbs and build barriers. Should differences arise, it behooves us all to discuss them with respect and a keen sense of equality,” he said.

Japan’s chief government spokesman refused comment on the spat, but said Tokyo would watch for any impact on Japanese companies.

A steep tariff on exports from Mexico to the U.S. could have a chilling effect on manufacturers like Toyota Motor Corp., which like nearly all other automakers builds small cars in Mexico to take advantage of its lower wages.

Along with other Japanese automakers, Toyota employs thousands of people at factories in the U.S. It also is planning to build a plant in Mexico to make the popular Corolla subcompact.

Opposition parties in Japan have lambasted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over Trump’s decision to pull out of a Pacific Rim trade initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that former President Barack Obama had made the centerpiece of efforts to strengthen U.S. economic ties in the region.

Abe said Friday he believed Japan could work with the U.S. on a bilateral trade deal, the type of arrangement Trump says he prefers, while also pursuing wider trade arrangements like the TPP.

After Trumps announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP, Abe and leaders of some of the 11 remaining member countries said they hoped to push ahead on the trade pact and possibly to woo the U.S. back.


Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.


White House says Mexico border wall might be funded by tax on imports

The Washington Post

A deep rift opened Thursday between the United States and its southern neighbor as the Trump administration pressed forward with a plan for a giant border wall and insisted that Mexico would pay for it, possibly through a U.S. tax on imports.

President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday called off a trip to Washington after emphasizing that Mexico would not finance the wall. Hours later, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said the border barrier would be funded by a 20 percent import tax on goods from Mexico.

Spicer did not provide details of how the policy would work. Later, he appeared to backtrack, telling reporters that the tax was “one idea” to pay for the wall and that his intent was not to “roll out” a new policy. He said it could be part of a broader import tax plan backed by some House Republicans.

Read the rest:


US-Mexico crisis deepens as Trump aide floats border tax idea


The White House on Thursday floated the idea of imposing a 20 percent tax on goods from Mexico to pay for a wall at the southern U.S. border, sending the peso tumbling and deepening a crisis between the two neighbors.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced on Twitter around midday on Thursday that he was scrapping a planned trip to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly demanded that Mexico pay for a wall on the U.S. border.

Later in the day, White House spokesman Sean Spicer sent the Mexican peso falling to its low for the day when he told reporters that Trump wanted a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for construction of the wall.

Spicer gave few details, but his comments resembled an existing idea, known as a border adjustment tax, that the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is considering as part of a broad tax overhaul.

The White House said later its proposal was in the early stages. Asked if Trump favored a border adjustment tax, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said such a tax would be “one way” of paying for the border wall.

“It’s a buffet of options,” he said.

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Mexico import tax ‘not a good situation’: AAFA  6 Hours Ago | 00:55

The plan being weighed by House Republicans would exempt export revenues from taxation but impose a 20 percent tax on imported goods, a significant change from current U.S. policy.

“If you tax exports from Mexico into the United States, you’re going to make things ranging from avocados to appliances to flat-screen TVs, you’re going to make them more expensive,” Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told reporters at the Mexican Embassy in Washington on Thursday night.

Countries like Mexico would not pay such taxes directly.

Companies would face the tax if they import products made there into the United States, potentially raising prices for American consumers.

The idea is unpopular with retailers and businesses that sell imported goods in the United States. It also has met opposition from some lawmakers worried about the impact on U.S. consumers.

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Trump is strong-arming Mexico: Expert  7 Hours Ago | 01:40

Trump himself appeared to pan the idea in a Wall Street Journal interview last week, saying the House border adjustment provision was “too complicated.”

Even after Trump’s comments, congressional Republicans have continued to discuss the issue with White House officials in an effort to bring them on board with the idea.

Rift with Mexico

Trump, who visited Republican lawmakers at their policy retreat in Philadelphia, told them he would use tax reform legislation to pay for the border wall.

“We’re working on a tax reform bill that will reduce our trade deficits, increase American exports and will generate revenue from Mexico that will pay for the wall if we decide to go that route,” he said.

Trump, who took office last week, views the wall, a major promise during his election campaign, as part of a package of measures to curb illegal immigration. Mexico has long insisted it will not heed Trump’s demands to pay for the construction project.

He signed an executive order for construction of the wall on Wednesday. The move provoked outrage in Mexico. A planned meeting between Videgaray and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was canceled, a department spokeswoman said.

A look at currency as U.S.-Mexico tensions heat up

A look at currency as U.S.-Mexico tensions heat up  8 Hours Ago | 03:17

Videgaray said Mexico would work with Trump but that paying for the wall was out of the question.

“There are things that go beyond negotiation,” he said.

“This is about our dignity and our pride.”

Pena Nieto, who had been under pressure to cancel the summit, tweeted on Thursday: “We have informed the White House that I will not attend the working meeting planned for next Tuesday with @POTUS.”

Trump had tweeted earlier that it would be better for the Mexican leader not to come if Mexico would not pay for the wall.

He said later the meeting was canceled by mutual agreement.

Relations have been frayed since Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015, characterizing Mexican immigrants as murderers and rapists. His trade rhetoric has hit the Mexican economy, causing consumers to rein in spending and foreign businesses to wait on new investments, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Trump has vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada and slap high tariffs on American companies that have moved jobs south of the border.

Mexico ships 80 percent of its exports to the United States, and about half of Mexico’s foreign direct investment has come from its northern neighbor over the past two decades.

The United States runs a $58.8 billion trade deficit with Mexico, according to the latest U.S. government figures. But Mexico is also the United States’ second-largest export market.

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MEXICO CITY — Hunkered down in the presidential palace, Enrique Peña Nieto, the unpopular leader of Mexico, was besieged on both sides.

The new American president, Donald J. Trump, had just ordered the construction of a border wall between the two countries, and the public outcry in Mexico was deafening. Top cabinet officials, meanwhile, counseled caution, urging Mr. Peña Nieto not to cancel his meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House next week.

For months, though his ratings hovered near the single digits, the worst of any Mexican president in recent history, Mr. Peña Nieto resisted the temptation to saber-rattle, arguing that the relationship with America was simply too important to fall prey to a war of words.

He wanted to give diplomacy one last try. By Thursday morning, the effort had officially failed.

In a blitz of Twitter messages from the two presidents, fired off over the past two days, the first full-blown foreign policy standoff of the Trump administration has taken shape.