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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tokyo (AFP) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday added his voice to calls for Washington to work through its budget battles as he met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

“We are hopeful in the future that these uncertainties over fiscal issues will be resolved by the administration and the U.S. Congress,” Abe told the U.S. finance chief in Tokyo.

Lew, who made no comments during a short media briefing before the pair met in private, was in the Japanese capital on the first leg of an Asian tour which will also take him to Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

Abe’s comments follow a series of warnings from world leaders about the budget crisis in Washington last month, which stoked a 16-day government shutdown.

A catastrophic debt default was narrowly averted, but a temporary truce among warring lawmakers only pushed tough decisions about the country’s debt and budget deficit into the new year.

Lawmakers must now hash out a more permanent deal.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso previously warned that failure to reach an agreement would send shockwaves across the global economy.

Japan is the second-biggest holder of U.S. government debt after China, with any default threatening its massive investment.

Earlier Tuesday, Japanese economy minister Akira Amari met with Lew and said the pair were still eyeing a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations by year’s end.

Washington has been pushing for Tokyo to open up protected sectors such as agriculture, a sensitive topic with cossetted industries enjoying widespread support and wielding significant political power in Japan.

The mooted trade pact, which would encompass as many as a dozen members that together account for more than 40 percent of the global economy, calls for the elimination of all tariffs.

But Tokyo has been looking to keep levies on imports of rice, beef and other agricultural goods.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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