Japan says Pacific Rim pact offers best trade deals

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Japan says Pacific Rim pact offers best trade deals

On Tuesday the USA and Japan kicked off talks aimed at achieving a new economic relationship - in line with Trump's vow to focus on bilateral trade deals rather than multilateral ones that he says have damaged the US.

KORUS, which was signed five years ago, provides duty-free access for 95 percent of consumer and industrial goods.

In Seoul, US Vice President Mike Pence said that talks between the two nations will look to "level the playing field", to address the growing US trade deficit under the deal. "Our businesses continue to face too many barriers to entry, which tilts the playing field against American workers and American growth", he told local business leaders.

The Trump administration favors bilateral trade deals, which provide an opportunity for the U.S.to leverage its economic and military might.

US Vice President Mike Pence Thursday praised Indonesia's moderate form of Islam as "an inspiration" at the start of a visit to the Muslim-majority country seen as a bid by his administration to heal divisions with the Islamic world.

Also Tuesday, it emerged that a US strike group was not near the Korean Peninsula as had been previously thought, after President Trump said last week he had sent an "armada" as a warning to Pyongyang.

Over the past six months, Indonesia has wrestled with mining giant Freeport McMoRan, demanding the company divest 51 per cent of its shares in its Papua-based gold and copper mine, and has demanded that Google Inc settle unpaid taxes of more than US$400 million.

Pence said the Trump Administration would move more of its most advanced military assets into the Asia-Pacific region.

The VP noted the Trump administration will "work diligently" with allies, including Japan and China, in order to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang.

In early January, while still president-elect, Trump in a tweet threatened Toyota with tariffs over a planned new vehicle plant in Mexico.

North Korea's last two missile tests ended in failure, raising questions whether the USA military could be using cyber methods to disrupt North Korea tests, CNN reported.

Opening up the Japanese market to USA agricultural exports will likely be one of the most heated topics of debate when and if talks move forward. Like Trump, former President Barack Obama sought Chinese help to place pressure on North Korea to make concessions.

Philip Seng, president of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, which is made up of livestock organizations, food producers and others, called on Japan to lower tariffs on imported beef and other products at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. The discussions are to focus on economic and structural policy and trade and investment strategies aimed at strengthening both countries' economies.

Adam Mulawarman, the Indonesian foreign ministry's director of American affairs, said he believed "the visit to Istiqlal reflects the desire of the USA to open itself to Islam, to engage in interfaith dialogue".

Pyongyang's pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons has raised tensions between the regime and Washington, which is determined to resolve the North Korea problem once and for all.

Speaking aboard the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier docked at the U.S. Navy's Yokosuka base, Pence said a diligent and collaborative approach to deescalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula was the way forward.

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