U.S., Japan Clearly Differ on Trade Policy, Japan's Aso Says

(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that protectionism isn’t good, adding to tensions over trade policy between the two global economic powers.

U.S. and Japan clearly differ on their trade policies, Aso told reporters on Friday in Washington after attending the G-20 meeting of central bankers and finance ministers. The finance minister, who is in charge of Japan’s currency policy, said he and Mnuchin discussed foreign exchange in the context of the global economy.

The divergence over trade was reiterated as the U.S. tries 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. U.S. President Donald Trump has sent mixed messages about the TPP.

The gathering came after the meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump also highlighted their differences over trade earlier this week, leaving the premier with little to revive falling support for his administration amid a string of scandals.

Aso is also coming home to face pressure to step down as a land-sale scandal and sexual harassment allegations engulf the finance ministry. In Washington, he said he’s not considering resigning, but a political backlash could intensify after Aso attended his first G-20 gathering in a year despite failing to get parliament’s approval.

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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