April 24, 2019 / 10:17 AM / a month ago

Japanese minister to meet U.S. treasury secretary, likely discuss currencies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso will meet U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Washington on Thursday, with discussions widely expected to touch on currency issues on the sidelines of trade talks.

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso attends the G20 Finance and Central Bank Deputies Meeting in Tokyo, Japan January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Aso will brief reporters after the meeting, at around 4 p.m. (2000 GMT), the ministry said, but it did not mention the purpose of the meeting.

The meeting comes as Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is set to meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate a trade pact that Washington hopes will rectify what it sees as an unfair trade deficit with Japan.

The meetings will precede a summit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump later this week.

Mnuchin has said Washington would like to include a provision to deter currency manipulation in future trade deals, including with Japan, which has resisted the idea.

Currencies are a touchy issue for Japan because it has been criticized for keeping the yen JPY= low with massive monetary easing.

Tokyo has argued that its policy easing is aimed at achieving an inflation target, not at gaining export advantage by weakening its currency.

However, there are concerns this could become a flashpoint in trade talks with the United States.

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 is unhappy with Japan’s trade surplus with the United States - much of it from auto exports.

During trade talks last week, Washington highlighted a large trade deficit with Japan – $67.6 billion in goods in 2018.

Tokyo and Washington have agreed that currency issues should be discussed by respective finance ministers.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Robert Birsel & Kim Coghill

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