September 18, 2018 / 1:45 AM / a month ago

Japan calls for early solution to U.S.-China trade war

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese policymakers on Tuesday called for an early solution to the escalating U.S.-China trade war and warned of the potential damage to global growth in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to slap new tariffs on China.

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Minister of Economic Revitalization Toshimitsu Motegi attends a news conference on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting during APEC 2017 in Da Nang, Vietnam, November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Asian shares fell on Tuesday after Trump said he will impose tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, in a sharp escalation of the trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies.

“Tit-for-tat tariff retaliation benefits no country,” Japan’s Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters after a regular cabinet meeting.

Finance Minister Taro Aso said while global trade imbalances must be fixed to avoid another financial crisis, the United States and China must address the problem through dialogue instead of slapping retaliatory tariffs on each other.

“The world’s biggest and second largest economies must hold dialogue appropriately,” Aso told a briefing on Tuesday.

“Declines in trade volume means contraction of their economies, and the impact on other countries will become large.”

Trade minister Hiroshige Seko also said Trump’s decision to impose new tariffs on China was “extremely regrettable” as it could hurt the global economy and could have unintended consequences on other economies.

He said the government would scrutinize how the trade spat could affect Japanese companies, which may see sales hit if global supply chains are disrupted.

“There are quite a few Japanese companies who ship parts to China, which are then assembled (as final goods) and exported to the United States,” Seko told a news conference.

The intensifying trade friction is among risks the Bank of Japan will scrutinize at its two-day rate meeting that ends on Wednesday.

While many Japanese policymakers do not see the trade woes as an immediate threat to the country’s economic recovery, they fret that the damage could be serious if Trump decides to raise tariffs on automobile and auto parts imports.

Some policymakers also worry that Japan may come under pressure from Trump to open up its sensitive agriculture market through a bilateral free trade agreement.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump are scheduled to meet for a summit on the sidelines of a U.N. General Assembly General Debate starting Sept. 25. Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will likely hold a second round of trade talks ahead of the summit.

Motegi told reporters that he would likely make an announcement shortly on when the trade talks will be held.

Writing by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Michael Perry

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