July 27, 2018 / 2:44 AM / a year ago

Japan's Aso wants G20 meetings to 'nip crises in the bud'

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso on Friday said he wanted next year’s Group of 20 meetings in Osaka to focus on identifying problems in the global economy before they worsen, and ruled out pursuing a two-way free trade pact with the United States.

FILE PHOTO - Japan's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso arrives at G-20 plenary during the IMF/World Bank spring meeting in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The G20 grouping of policymakers from rich and developing countries faces a range of problems that could derail global growth, such as trade protectionism, U.S. monetary policy, investment flows from emerging markets and currency swings.

“The role the G20 should play next year is to nip crises in the bud before they develop further,” Aso added, saying he wanted next year’s gathering “to promote investment in high-quality infrastructure to ensure economic growth”.

He added, “As the chair, I want to make sure we work towards these ends.”

At last week’s meeting in Argentina, G20 finance ministers and central bankers discussed downside risks to the global economy and reaffirmed their consensus over currency market issues, Aso said.

But they failed to reach consensus on ways to resolve multiple disputes over U.S. tariff actions, raising fears that the grouping could struggle to reach agreement next year, at a time when risks to the global economy could be increasing. [nL1N1UI03R]

Japan’s talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will take place in August, rather than July, as had originally been expected, Aso also told reporters.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed this year to set up the dialogue as the Trump administration renegotiates trade relationships it considers unfair to U.S. companies and workers.

Trump has made clear he prefers a bilateral trade deal with Japan to lower its trade surplus with the United States, but Aso on Friday reiterated Japan’s lack of interest in such a pact.

The stakes are high for Japan because Trump’s administration could ask the Asian nation to take specific measures to shrink its trade surplus, which would hurt its export-oriented economy.

Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Clarence Fernandez

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