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METI Minister Seko Visits the Argentine Republic and the Republic of Paraguay

From December 10(Sun.)to 16(Sat.), 2017, Mr. Hiroshige Seko, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, visited Buenos Aires, the Argentine Republic, and Asuncion, the Republic of Paraguay.

In Argentina, he attended the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference(MC11), a Japan-US-EU Trilateral Meeting of Trade Ministers, and Ministerial Meeting on Electronic Commerce. He also held meetings each with: Mr. Robert Emmet Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative(USTR); Dr. Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner for Trade, the EU; Mr. Roberto Azevedo, Director-General, WTO; Ms. Susana Malcorra, Chair of the MC11; Mr. Maksim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development, Russia; . Mr. Steven Ciobo , Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Australia; Dr. Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Secretary of Economy, Mexico; Dr. Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry, South Africa; and officials from the European Parliament, the EU.

In Paraguay, Minister Seko held meetings each with Mr. Horacio Cartes, President, and Mr. Gustavo Alfredo Leite Gusinky, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Paraguay. He then visited Astillero Tsuneishi Paraguay S.A. and exchanged views with stakeholders.

1. MC11

Under MC11 Chair Malcorra of Argentina and WTO Director-General Azevedo, representatives of the WTO members delivered speeches on the importance of the multilateral trading system and other issues.

Minister Seko made the following proposals and statements, and received support from many members.

(1)The WTO needs to promote free trade and to further bolster the trust in the multilateral trading system with the WTO at its center, as the value of free trade and the multilateral trading system are facing serious challenges today.

(2)The WTO also needs to pay particular attention to the following three major challenges:"inclusive growth" "digital revolution" and "market-distorting measures".

(3)In particular, in addressing "digital revolution", it is necessary to establish a new working group under the WTO and to encourage discussions to clarify and strengthen the existing WTO rules on e-commerce.

Concerning the outcome document, ministers strove to negotiate until the last day of the ministerial meeting, but they could not finalize a ministerial declaration. Moreover, members were unable to reach unanimous consensus on a noteworthy agreement in areas such as agriculture and fisheries. Meanwhile, members interested in discussing issues of importance to today’s economy such as e-commerce, MSMEs(Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises), and investment facilitation issued a joint statement and encouraged discussions under the WTO. In particular, under the leadership of Japan, Australia and Singapore, 70 WTO Members, including the United States and the EU, issued a Joint Statement that we share the goal of advancing electronic commerce work in the WTO in order to better harness opportunities.

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2. Outline of the Ministerial Meeting on Electronic Commerce

Japan, Australia and Singapore co-chaired a Ministerial meeting on electronic commerce. The meeting brought together WTO Members that share the goal of advancing electronic commerce work in the WTO, and 70 WTO Members, ranging from industrialized economies like the United States and the EU to developing economies, issued a Joint Statement.

The joint statement highlighted the following efforts to show specific future directions of their work:

  1. The members will initiate exploratory work together toward future WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce, and
  2. a first meeting will be held in the first quarter of 2018.
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Reference:

3. Japan-US-EU Trilateral Meeting of Trade Ministers

Minister Seko, Commissioner Malmstrom, and Ambassador Lighthizer held a Japan-US-EU Trilateral Meeting of Trade Ministers.

At the meeting, they agreed on a joint statement under which Japan, the United States and the EU will collaborate in addressing market-distorting measures taken by third countries, for e.g., the problem of causing excess capacity through providing subsidies and the issue of forced technology transfer, thereby ensuring a global level playing field. Moreover, they engaged in a frank exchange of views on the WTO issues.

Japan, the United States, and the EU agreed to continue ministerial dialogues.

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Reference:

4. Bilateral meetings

(1)US Trade Representative Lighthizer

Minister Seko and Ambassador Lighthizer held discussions concerning a variety of issues, focusing on market-distorting measures by third countries. In addition, they frankly exchanged views concerning challenges involving the WTO, including digital trade.

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(2)Meeting with European Commissioner for Trade Malmstrom

Minister Seko and Commissioner Malmstrom shared a recognition that Japan, the United States, and the EU need to collaborate in addressing market-distorting measures by third countries to ensure a global level playing field.

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(3)Meeting with WTO Director-General Azevedo

Minister Seko exchanged views with WTO Director-General Azevedo concerning ideal approaches to outcomes of the MC11. Both sides agreed that overall member countries should seek approaches to showing positive signals and that advancing efforts by interested countries in certain fields, for e.g., e-commerce, will be useful.

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(4)Meeting with MC11 Chair Malcorra

Minster Seko explained Japan’s perspectives for target outcomes that the WTO should aim at the MC11 to Chair Malcorra. Both sides confirmed that as an important effort, the MC11 should convey a message to the world that the WTO will fortify its systems, including efforts in new fields, including e-commerce.

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(5)Working dinner with Minister Oreshkin, Russia

Both sides exchanged views concerning the improvement of labor productivity and cooperation in the field of digital economy and agreed that both countries will continue to engage in efforts for advancing the eight-point cooperation plan, bearing in mind the Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Russia scheduled in May 2018.

(6)Meeting with Minister Ciobo, Australia

Both sides confirmed their collaboration in efforts for leading the Facilitator Meetings on E-Commerce to success and exchanged views concerning the TPP 11 and RCEP.

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(7)Meeting with Secretary of Economy Guajardo, Mexico

Minister Seko held a meeting with Secretary of Economy Guajardo, for the third time in 2017, and both sides exchanged views mainly concerning TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) 11 and renegotiations of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) in a productive manner based on the relationship of mutual trust between Japan and Mexico.

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(8)Meeting with Minister Davies, South Africa

As the first meeting for both ministers, both sides held a discussion on efforts for promoting trade and investment activities by Japanese companies in South Africa and for accelerating business exchanges between Japan and Africa.

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(9)Meeting with officials from the European Parliament, the EU

Both sides welcomed the conclusion of the Japan-EU EPA negotiations. Moreover, they held discussions concerning a variety of issues, including e-commerce rules and Japan-EU cooperation in WTO efforts.

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5. Paraguay

From December 13(Wed.)to 14(Thur.), 2017, Minister Seko visited Asuncion, Paraguay, as the first economic minister of Japan to do so, and held meetings with President Cartes and Minister Leite. Following this, he visited Astillero Tsuneishi Paraguay S.A. and exchanged views with stakeholders.

(1)Meeting with President Cartes(December 14)

Minister Seko held a meeting with President Cartes, and both sides confirmed that Japan and Paraguay will cooperate to further expand and strengthen bilateral relationships with a focus on economic issues.

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Meeting with President Cartes

(2)Meeting with Minister Leite(December 14)

Minister Seko held a meeting with Minister Leite, and both sides confirmed that Japan and Paraguay will promote specific cooperation to encourage Japanese companies to invest in Paraguay. As part of this cooperation, witnessed by Minister Seko, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Paraguay, signed a memorandum of cooperation to support Japanese companies in developing business in Paraguay and strengthen such business. Under the memorandum of cooperation, both sides will provide information to Japanese companies, dispatch business missions, hold business seminars, and promote other efforts.

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Meeting with Minister Leite
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Signing ceremony between JETRO and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Paraguay

(3)Visiting a Japanese-affiliated company in Paraguay and exchanging views with stakeholders(December 14)

Minister Seko visited Astillero Tsuneishi Paraguay S.A., a shipbuilder in Villeta, Paraguay, and exchanged views with stakeholders concerning the current state of the shipbuilding industry in South America, challenges that Japanese companies are facing in the country, and other issues.

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Visiting Astillero Tsuneishi Paraguay S.A.

Release date

December 18, 2017

Division in Charge

Information on the MC11 and Ministerial Meeting on Electronic Commerce:
Multilateral Trade System Department, Trade Policy Bureau
Information on the Trilateral Meetings of Trade Ministers:
Trade Policy Planning Office, Trade Policy Bureau
Information on Minister Seko’s visit to Paraguay:
Latin America and Caribbean Office, Trade Policy Bureau
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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