The US and Japan announced a new trade partnership to strengthen cooperation on labour, environmental, and digital trade issues, with a focus on "third country concerns," a reference to China's state-driven economic policies.

Initial meetings of the US-Japan Partnership on Trade will take place early in 2022, with periodic meetings on a regular basis, according to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

"This alliance will deepen the cooperation between the US and Japan that has defined our strong bilateral trade relationship," Tai's office in Washington said in a statement.

"Our close cooperation will assist to promote the Biden-Harris Administration's Indo-Pacific economic framework and establish sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and competitive trade policies that benefit our people and economies."

The USTR's announcement made no mention of the new forum as a body tasked with negotiating new trade deals between the world's largest and third-largest economies.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told Tai that the goal was to enhance the Japan-US alliance and strengthen bilateral coordination in order to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The foreign ministry had previously stated that the new alliance will allow the two countries to discuss their shared global agenda, Indo-Pacific cooperation, and bilateral trade concerns.

New discussions between the US and Japan are expected to begin soon to address concerns about US "Section 232" national security tariffs on steel and aluminium, as well as global surplus capacity for the metals, which is mostly based in China. The talks follow a quota agreement between the US and the EU that allows about 4 million tonnes of EU-produced steel to enter the US duty-free each year.