Japan's Aso, U.S. Treasury head Yellen to hold first phone discussion: source

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will hold phone talks for the first time on Monday, a government source said, as both countries continue their battle to cushion the economic blow from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The talks will likely be held late Monday evening Tokyo time, the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Aso had told parliament last month he hoped to hold online talks with the new U.S. treasury sectretary as soon as possible, adding that Japan’s views on key economic topics were in line with those expressed by Yellen at her congressional testimony.

Key for Japanese policymakers is the U.S. currency policy under the Biden administration, due to Tokyo’s long history of having to jawbone investors or directly intervene in currency markets to address unwelcome yen spikes that hurt exports.

Yellen last month said the value of the dollar should be determined by markets, a break from departing President Donald Trump’s desire for a weaker U.S. currency.

“The United States does not seek a weaker currency to gain competitive advantage and we should oppose attempts by other countries to do so,” she said.

While it is unclear whether Aso and Yellen will talk about currency policy, there is unlikely to be major tension between the two sides now with the dollar stable around 104 yen – well above the 100-yen mark seen by market players as Tokyo’s line in the sand, analysts say.

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