By Stanley White
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso will travel to the United States on April 25 to meet Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump, a source said on Thursday.
Aso and Mnuchin may discuss provisions against currency manipulation that the United States hopes to include in a trade agreement with Japan, said the source, who has direct knowledge of the matter.
Currencies are a sensitive subject for Japan because it has been criticised for keeping the yen weak with monetary easing.
Tokyo has long argued that its monetary policy is aimed at generating inflation and not intended to gain an advantage in trade by weakening the yen, but there are lingering concerns this could become a flashpoint in trade talks with the United States.
Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi held two days of discussions with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer earlier this week towards an agreement the U.S. side hopes will lower its trade deficit.
The meeting between Motegi and Lighthizer came after Trump and Abe agreed last September to start trade talks in an arrangement that protects Japanese automakers from further tariffs while negotiations are under way.
Trump has made clear he is unhappy with Japan’s trade surplus with the United States – much of it from auto exports – and wants a two-way agreement to address it. During the talks this week, Washington highlighted the “very large trade deficit with Japan – $67.6 billion in goods in 2018,” according to the USTR statement.
The United States is also locked in a trade war with China, which has weighed on the global economy as both countries have slapped punitive tariffs on each other’s goods.
(Editing by Chris Gallagher and Jacqueline Wong)