Japan’s Aso to skip G-20 amid calls for resignation

TOKYO • Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso (picture) won’t attend a gathering of global economic leaders in Argentina next week, according to people familiar with the matter, costing him the chance to push back against US tariffs and voice his views on currencies.

Aso, who faces calls to resign after his ministry doctored files at the centre of a cronyism scandal, will be represented by a deputy at the March 19-20 meeting of Group of 20 (G-20) finance ministers and central bankers in Buenos Aires, said two ruling coalition lawmakers with knowledge of plans. Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda is expected to attend the G-20 gathering.

Vice Finance Minister Minoru Kihara will go instead of Aso, who will attend committee sessions in Parliament, said the lawmakers. They declined to be named because there hasn’t been an official announcement. A spokesman for the Finance Ministry declined to comment. Masatsugu Asakawa, the chief of foreign-exchange policy, will also attend.

As finance minister and deputy prime minister, Aso leads all economic discussions with the US, overseas Japan’s currency policy and is also head of the agency regulating cryptocurrencies, which will be hot topic at this meeting. His absence at the G-20 will weaken Japan’s voice as other nations seek to resist US protectionism.

“Japan can’t speak forcefully and get its message across unless it’s from someone in a position of responsibility,” said Atsushi Takeda, an economist at Itochu Corp. “Many nations will be asking the US to exclude them from its tariffs. When your boss isn’t around, you will have to take a back seat.” — Bloomberg