Trump Hosts Japan’s Abe at the White House

April 26, 2019 Updated: April 27, 2019

WASHINGTON—President Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House April 26 for a series of bilateral meetings including trade and regional security. The two leaders are working toward a bilateral trade deal that could give American farmers more access to Japan’s market.

“We have a very big trade negotiation going on right now with Japan,” Trump said during a joint press meeting. “We’ll be discussing very strongly agriculture because as the prime minister knows, Japan puts very massive tariffs on our agriculture.”

In September 2018, both leaders agreed to begin negotiations for a bilateral free-trade agreement. U.S. and Japanese negotiators held a second round of trade talks in Washington this week focusing on agriculture and autos.

Trump’s tariff on steel and aluminum imports and threats to impose levies on Japanese cars last year put pressure on Tokyo to enter bilateral trade talks with Washington. Abe had earlier resisted a bilateral agreement, preferring a multilateral trade pact with the United States under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trump, however, withdrew the United States from the TPP shortly after taking office in early 2017. Trump’s tariff strategy has helped bring Abe to the negotiating table.

With respect to auto tariffs, Trump said that Washington was not imposing new levies on Japanese cars, so “I think it’s something we’ll work out.”

The auto industry is vital for Japan’s manufacturing and economy. Automotive exports to the United States are a key source of growth for the country, accounting for nearly 1 percent of its gross domestic product.

Trump said the trade deal with Japan could move “very quickly.”

“It’s moving along very nicely,” he said.

Last year, the United States had a $67.6 billion trade deficit in goods with Japan, the fourth largest trading partner behind China, Mexico, and Germany.

Abe said Japanese businesses have invested $23 billion in the United States and have supported an additional 43,000 jobs since Trump took office.

The United States and Japan account for nearly 30 percent of the global economy. A strong bilateral tie between both economies is key for “global peace, stability, and prosperity,” said a senior administration official during a call.

“This is really about deepening our global partnership with Japan.  It’s also about our alliance, our partnership, and the President’s personal friendship with Prime Minister Abe,” he said.

Both sides are also expected to review the progress they have made during the recent meetings in Washington, according to the White House. The United States and Japan held the security consultative committee, the so-called “2+2” meeting, involving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and their Japanese counterparts on April 19. Both leaders will also discuss how to further expand their cooperation to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

They will also explore partnerships on energy, digital connectivity, and infrastructure investment to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, according to the White House.

The priorities for the upcoming Group of Twenty (G20) meetings will also be part of the discussions. Osaka, Japan will be hosting the next G20 Summit in late June this year.

Next month, Trump and the First Lady will visit Japan as the first state guests following the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito. Japanese Emperor Akihito, 85, is ending his three-decade reign and his son Crown Prince Naruhito, will succeed to the throne on May 1. Trump’s visit will follow a few weeks after the enthronement.

Trump said he initially was not intending to go Japan’s “big event,” however he was convinced to go when Abe told him that it was 100 times bigger than the Super Bowl.

Abe said it was a historic and tremendous event for everyone in Japan. It is the first time in nearly 200 years an emperor has abdicated.

Japan’s prime minister and his wife are expected to celebrate First Lady Melania Trump’s birthday on April 26. Trump and Abe will also play a short round of golf outside the capital on April 27.

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