Trump Holds Bilateral Meeting With Japan’s Prime Minister at G20

Japanese leader called U.S. mid-term elections a “historic victory” for Trump
November 30, 2018 Updated: November 30, 2018

BUENOS AIRES—President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Nov. 30 held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina.

In a joint press conference ahead of the meeting, Trump said both leaders have several matters to discuss, including military cooperation and trade. On the military side, both countries are working closely on North Korea and other issues, said Trump.

“Our partnership has been quite extraordinary, and we will be together for a long time,” he noted.

Both countries also cooperate on trade to help reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Japan.

“The deficit is coming down. It’s a massive deficit between Japan and the United States, and it’s coming down,” Trump said.  “Japan is buying large amounts of our fighter jets, our F-35s, and others, and we appreciate it very much.”

Both leaders also congratulated each other for election victories.

Abe “had a very big success in his election,” said Trump. “He won by a massive amount. And I’m not surprised at all.”

The Japanese leader, in response, called the U.S. mid-term elections a “historic victory” for Trump.

Abe said the alliance between the United States and Japan was getting stronger.

“Every time, when we see each other, we always have a very candid discussion,” he said.

After the talks, both leaders held another meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, marking the “first-ever Japan-U.S.-India trilateral summit meeting.”

The leaders discussed strengthening the trilateral partnership and working towards realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Bilateral Trade Talks with Japan

In September, Trump and Abe agreed to begin negotiations for a bilateral free-trade agreement on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York.

Abe had earlier resisted bilateral talks, preferring a multilateral trade pact with the United States under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

However, Tokyo was rumored to have departed from its earlier stance and to have made concessions to the United States in hopes of avoiding additional U.S. tariffs. Japanese officials had been worried about Washington’s threat to impose import tariffs on autos and auto parts on national-security grounds.

Trump has repeatedly raised concerns about the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and demanded a bilateral agreement to address the situation. The trade deficit in goods with Japan was nearly $69 billion last year, with nearly two-thirds of that coming from automotive imports.

Trade relations with Japan regressed last year after Trump pulled the United States out of the TPP, a multilateral trade pact that involves 11 Pacific Rim countries.

In addition, Washington has launched a Section 232 investigation into whether imports of autos and auto parts threaten national security. The investigation may result in tariffs as high as 25 percent on auto imports, which would hurt foreign carmakers, including Japan’s.

It isn’t clear whether Japan will be exempt from potential tariffs, but in a joint statement in New York, the two countries said they “will make efforts for the early solution of other tariff-related issues.”

Both sides also agreed to respect the positions of the other, drawing lines on the U.S. automotive sector and Japan’s agriculture market.

Follow Emel on Twitter: @mlakan
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