TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan has decided to reappoint Masatsugu Asakawa as its top currency diplomat, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Friday, a sign the government has opted for the status quo at a time when the country faces potential trade frictions with the United States.
Asakawa, a 60-year-old career bureaucrat, is well plugged into global and domestic policy networks and has spearheaded the promotion of Japan’s bilateral economic dialogue with the United States.
His reappointment should help Japan maintain consistency in economic negotiations with the United States, although both sides have launched new and separate frameworks focusing on bilateral trade, complicating Tokyo’s efforts to reduce tensions.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been following through on pledges he made during his 2016 presidential campaign to get tough on China, which he accuses of unfair trade practices.
He has also criticized Japan for running large trade surpluses with the United States.
Asakawa is close to Finance Minister Taro Aso, having served as his executive secretary when Aso was prime minister in 2008-2009 during the global financial crisis, and as his executive assistant when he became finance minister in 2012.
Aso made no mention of the appointment at a regular news briefing on Friday. The minister is expected to make an official announcement of a regular finance ministry reshuffle in coming weeks.
Asakawa became vice finance minister for international affairs at the finance ministry, or Japan’s top financial diplomat, in 2015.
Senior posts at the ministry are reviewed annually. It is rare for a government official to be kept in a post for that long.
If formally reappointed, Asakawa would become the longest-serving top financial diplomat since Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who served as vice finance minister for international affairs for 3 1/2 years to Jan 2003.
The role oversees Japan’s currency policy and international diplomacy and includes representing Tokyo at meetings of the Group of Seven advanced countries and the Group of 20 major economies.
Japan has not intervened in the currency market under Asakawa, though he tends to talk tough on markets to stem yen spikes that risk hurting the export-reliant economy.
The government also plans to promote Shigeaki Okamoto, currently serving as director-general of the ministry’s budget bureau, to administrative vice minister, the paper said.
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