Japan and U.S. must work to narrow differences on trade: economy minister Motegi

Japan's Minister of Economic Revitalization Toshimitsu Motegi speaks during the signing agreement ceremony for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, in Santiago, Chile March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and the United States still need to work to narrow their differences on trade, Japan’s economy minister said on Saturday, following a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Toshimitsu Motegi met with Lighthizer in Tokyo for trade talks ahead of a meeting on Monday between the leaders from the two nations. Motegi said there was no discussion of President Donald Trump’s decision to declare some auto imports a national security threat.

“We deepened our understanding of each other’s positions on trade. However, we’re not in complete agreement,” Motegi told reporters following the talks.

“There are still some gaps. We need to work to narrow our differences.”

He said he did not expect a total, or even partial agreement on trade at Monday’s summit.

Trump arrived in Japan on Saturday for a largely ceremonial state visit meant to showcase strong ties even though trade relations remain problematic. He urged Japanese business leaders to increase their investment in the United States while chiding Japan for having a “substantial edge” on trade.

The United States is engaged in a trade war with China in protest against Beijing’s treatment of U.S. companies, and tensions with Japan and the European Union over trade are simmering.

Reporting by Stanley White; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Frances Kerry