Aso, Yellen discuss economic fallout from pandemic, China

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Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said that he and newly appointed U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen agreed Monday to closely cooperate in addressing the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic during their discussion also involving policies on China.

“We exchanged views on the economic situations in the world and our countries, and confirmed that we’ll keep cooperating closely,” Aso, who has doubled as deputy prime minister since 2012, told reporters after the talks over the phone with Yellen, a former chief of the Federal Reserve.

“As for our fiscal policies, our priority is to come out from the crisis by taking bold economic measures,” Aso added.

The two finance chiefs also discussed policies related to China, according to Aso, saying it is important to hold close discussions among the Group of Seven nations on the matter.

Yellen, for her part, conveyed her intention to deepen cooperation with Japan to strengthen both economies and her readiness to work closely with Japan, both bilaterally and multilaterally, over the economic response to the pandemic and climate change, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The Japanese minister said he congratulated Yellen on her inauguration as treasury secretary, which the U.S. Senate approved last week under the administration of new President Joe Biden.

Yellen, who became the first woman to take up the post in the Treasury’s over 230-year history, has already had talks by phone with her counterparts in Britain, Germany, France and Canada since she took office, according to the department.

Since last year, the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the world’s largest and third-largest economies, both of which saw the largest quarterly shrinkage on record in the April-June period.

Although the two countries have seen gradual economic recovery since then, recent resurgences of COVID-19 cases across the world have been clouding the outlook again.

To deal with the virus impact, Biden proposed in January a $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan including additional cash benefits for individuals.

In Japan, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga decided in December its latest economic package worth 73.6 trillion yen ($700 billion) including extending the domestic travel subsidy program to support the pandemic-hit tourism sector.

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