U.S., Japan say will push Doha, fight protectionism

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. and Japanese trade officials agreed to push for a deal in the long-running Doha round of world trade talks and to fight against protectionism, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Monday.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshihiro Nikai “agreed to work together closely to achieve a successful Doha Development Round that is both ambitious and balanced,” USTR said in a statement it attributed to both Kirk and Nikai.

The Doha round of world trade talks was launched in late 2001 with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade. Countries came close to a deal last year, but that effort collapsed. Now, all eyes are on President Barack Obama to see how aggressively he will push the talks.

Kirk promised two weeks ago the administration will soon “say more about how we think Doha can finally move forward.”

Japan is the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner behind Canada, China and Mexico.

Two-way trade last year totaled $205.8 billion, including about $139.2 billion in U.S. imports from Japan and $66.6 billion in U.S. exports to that country.

Japan and the United States, as back-to-back host countries for the 2010 and 2011 meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), will work closely together to push forward an ambitious agenda, Kirk and Nikai said.

They will push an agenda that includes fighting protectionism, promoting sustainable growth and strengthening economic integration in Asia-Pacific, they said.

Singapore is this year’s host country for APEC and will hold the annual APEC trade ministers meeting on July 21-22.

Kirk and Nikai pledged to work together on bilateral trade concerns, but their joint statement did not mention any possibility of negotiating a bilateral free trade deal as some business groups have advocated.

They also again urged China to withdraw certification rules that threaten foreign sales of 13 information technology security products to Chinese government agencies.

Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Cynthia Osterman