Taro Aso, Japan’s deputy prime and finance minister, pauses as he speaks to the media at the official residence of Japan’s prime minister in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg)  

Japan's Aso Brings Little Home From G-20 Amid Calls to Resign

(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso won’t have an easy homecoming.

After he flies back from Washington, Aso is likely to face further media questions and calls for his resignation amid a string of scandals at the finance ministry. In Washington, he said he’s not considering stepping down, but a political backlash could intensify given Aso attended his first G-20 gathering in a year despite failing to get parliament’s approval.

Japan's Aso Brings Little Home From G-20 Amid Calls to Resign

Aso is bringing little tangible diplomatic progress after his criticism of protectionism in his meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed clear differences on trade policy between the two nations. He didn’t get an exemption from U.S. tariffs on metals, either. Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump also highlighted their differences on trade.

“No progress was made and we simply confirmed the U.S. wants to pursue a bilateral channel,” Masaki Kuwahara, a Tokyo-based senior economist at Nomura Securities Co., said on Saturday in a phone interview. “The political situation for the Abe administration is worsening and I think the current political chaos will continue.”

The U.S. aims to pursue bilateral negotiations to fix trade imbalances with other nations, while Japan prefers a multilateral pact and hopes the U.S. will rejoin Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump has sent mixed messages about the TPP.

“Trump doesn’t like the name of TPP and such framework itself, and so his approach is clearly different,” Aso told reporters on Friday in Washington after attending the G-20 meeting. Aso, who is in charge of Japan’s currency policy, said he and Mnuchin discussed foreign exchange in the context of the global economy.

Earlier in the week in Washington, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who also attended the G-20 gathering, warned against trade protectionism, saying that it won’t be good for the world economy. Kuroda, whose new term started this month, will be chairing the central bank’s monetary policy meeting on April 26-27 with his new deputies.

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