The US and Japan have launched economic talks that US Vice President Mike Pence said could result in a bilateral trade deal.
"At some point in the future there may be a decision made between our nations to take what we have learned in this dialogue and commence formal negotiations for a free trade agreement," Pence said at a joint news conference with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday.
"But I will leave that to the future."
Pence's comments came as the two countries kicked off talks aimed at achieving a new economic relationship.
The talks are in line with US President Donald Trump's vow to focus on bilateral trade deals rather than multilateral ones that he says have damaged the United States.
Trump's decision to scrap the ambitious 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal championed by former president Barack Obama was a blow to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who expended substantial political capital to get the accord passed at home.
In Tokyo, there is still hope that the core of the agreement, thrashed out between the United States and Japan and intended to counterbalance China's regional economic power, can be salvaged in some form.
Pence, however, reaffirmed that there was no hope of reviving the TPP itself.
"The TPP is a thing of the past for the United States of America," he said.
"The Trump administration has made the decision and has taken steps to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And that will be our policy going forward."
TRT World’s Adefemi Akinsanya reports.