TOKYO – In a sign that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to develop a more mutually beneficial economic relationship with the United States, he is expected next weekend to agree with President George W. Bush on the creation of a new framework for economic talks between the two countries, government sources said.

The two leaders will be meeting in Hanoi during the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, scheduled to start Saturday.

With the existing Economic Partnership for Growth framework now considered outdated, sources said the two countries are ready to modify the bilateral agreement to provide a platform for pursuing common interests.

Observers note that until now, economic talks between the two countries have, since the Japan-U.S. Structural Impediments Initiative talks were initiated in 1989, effectively been used by the United States as opportunities to press Japan on issues such as structural reform and deregulation.

Even during the tenure of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, during which time political relations with the United States flourished, the Economic Partnership for Growth talks were characterized by U.S. requests that Japan move to reform its underperforming economy, which was hamstrung by the bad loans many of the country’s banks had taken on. The talks began in 2001, shortly after Koizumi came to office.

The new framework, by contrast, is set to be used largely as a platform to allow the two countries to coordinate their response to global economic concerns in a way that satisfies common economic interests, the sources said. One government official said that now that Japan’s economy has recovered from its prolonged downturn, and with a new prime minister in office, the time has come for such a framework.


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