WASHINGTON — The Trump administration remains hopeful that a bilateral trade deal between the U.S. and Japan can be reached quickly.

President Donald Trump has said that, "Ultimately, we have a chance to make a good and very long-term trade deal with Japan."

The president is planning to travel to Japan in late May for a state visit with the new emperor.

Speaking of a possible timetable for new trade deal, Trump said, "I think it can go quickly. I think it can go fairly quickly. Maybe by the time I'm over there, maybe we sign it over there. But it's moving along very nicely and we'll see what happens."

Meanwhile, a group of 88 U.S. companies and associations, including some major poultry and egg groups, has said a U.S.-Japan trade agreement "will greatly benefit the U.S. food and agriculture industry."

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the organizations stated that "as the fourth largest market for U.S. agriculture products, improved access to Japan is imperative for the continued growth of the sector and the millions of American jobs it helps support."

The groups noted that competing regional and bilateral agreements have already been established between Japan and other nations, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the European Union-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-Japan EPA).

"Our agreement with Japan must include market access provisions that at least equal the terms of the CPTPP and the EU-Japan EPA in the first stage of implementation, the letter said.

"Further, the agreement must include an accelerated phase-in of tariff cuts to ensure the U.S. is not facing a disadvantage on tariff or TRQ quantity access compared to other countries," the group's letter added.

Among the signers of the letter are the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, National Association of Egg Farms, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute, Tyson Foods, United Egg Association, United Egg Producers and USDA Poultry & Egg Association.

Currently, the U.S. has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Japan. The Trump administration has also hinted at imposing steeper tariffs on Japanese automobiles.

The U.S. trade imbalance with Japan last year totaled $67.6 billion.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has said U.S. farmers should get the same access to Japanese markets as countries that have signed up to the Pacific trade deal.

The secretary said trade talks could possibly culminate in an agriculture-centric trade deal by the end of May "hopefully by the time the president visits Japan."

"Maybe not a comprehensive bilateral trade (deal), but certainly one that seals down the agriculture issues that we care about," Perdue added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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