A Japanese delegation is coming to Washington next week to resume negotiations on a free trade agreement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Agri-Pulse Friday.

The talks will begin Thursday, Aug. 1, and Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will be leading the visiting delegation, a government source tells Agri-Pulse. Lighthizer will be in Shanghai Tuesday and Wednesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to continue efforts to end the U.S.-China trade war, but the USTR will be back in time to meet with Motegi, the source said.

Motegi and Lighthizer have been meeting in the U.S. and Japan this year, but talks were suspended until after elections in Japan’s upper house of parliament, which took place last Sunday.

The U.S. ag sector is enthusiastic for a free trade agreement with Japan, a major buyer of U.S. beef, pork, wheat, dairy, wine, fruits, vegetables and other commodities. Japan was set to lift tariffs on U.S. ag as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, but President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal. Now countries like Canada and Australia, which remained in the pact, are benefiting from reduced Japanese tariffs. Japan also cut tariffs on European commodities as part of its new FTA with the European Union.

“As the fourth largest market for U.S. agricultural products, improved access to Japan is imperative for the continued growth of the sector and the millions of American jobs it helps support,” dozens of agriculture groups and companies said in an April letter to Lighthizer. “Unfortunately, the U.S. food and agriculture industry is increasingly disadvantaged by competing regional and bilateral agreements with Japan that have already been implemented.”

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