By Kaori Kaneko and Yoshifumi Takemoto


TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan should follow global rules if Tokyo starts bilateral trade talks with the United States, but it's unlikely that they would be acrimonious like the 1990s auto trade talks, a vice minister said on Tuesday.


Ken Saito, vice agriculture minister, experienced those contentious negotiations first-hand as a trade ministry bureaucrat a couple decades ago.


"I don't think there will be fierce trade talks again, but if that happens, it is important for Japan to follow global rules and principles" such as those laid out by the World Trade Organisation, Saito told Reuters in an interview.


"For the government to instruct private companies what to do would be tantamount to denying capitalism and liberalism."


Saito's comments came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed over the weekend to establish a new framework for economic dialogue. But Japanese officials said Trump did not request a bilateral trade deal.

If the countries do move in that direction, Saito said it is unlikely that the United States will press Japan to come up with numerical targets in the U.S. auto sector as it did decades ago.

"I think there is a certain understanding in the U.S. that Japanese automakers have made efforts" by boosting production and creating jobs in the United States, Saito said.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; editing by Malcolm Foster)