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As Trump’s popularity continues to rise, his Japan-bashing continues to baffle

by

Kyodo

Japanese government officials are faced with a challenging question: when to begin the work of clearing up misunderstandings caused by U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s remarks about bilateral relations?

On the campaign trail seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination Trump criticized Japan, along with China and Mexico, saying Tokyo has deliberately lowered the yen’s value against the dollar, making American products less competitive and hurting U.S. employment.

Bringing jobs back from Japan and other countries has become his signature phrase to please the crowds. The 69-year-old billionaire businessman also claims the 1960 bilateral security treaty is unfair as it only obliges the United States to defend Japan.

“We have a trade deficit with China of $500 billion a year. We have a trade deficit with Japan of over $100 billion a year,” Trump told a press conference after winning in three primaries Tuesday. He blasted Japan for buying “practically nothing” from the United States.

Trump said Japanese construction machinery manufacturer Komatsu Ltd. threatens its American competitor, Caterpillar Inc., thanks to what he called Japanese currency manipulation.

Some senior Japanese government officials and Washington-based experts on bilateral relations said that while Tokyo recognizes Trump’s rhetoric is over the top, it is hard to identify whom to raise this with on his staff.

The U.S. goods trade deficit with Japan amounted to $69 billion and that with China stood at $366 billion in 2015, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Trump continues to be the front-runner in the presidential nomination race both in terms of support ratings in opinion polls and the number of delegates secured so far.

“I’ll refrain from commenting on him,” Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae told a recent press conference after being asked for his views, apparently out of concern that any hasty bid to correct Trump’s statements could backfire.

One of the Japanese officials said, “We don’t think now is the best time” to challenge Trump as he is not thought to have set up a full-fledged foreign policy team.

Trump’s solid popularity, in spite of his derogatory remarks about Hispanics, Muslims and others, and the growing possibility of him becoming the Republican presidential candidate in July, have been making big headlines in Japan for months.

If Trump wins the nomination, even if he does not become the next U.S. president, “it will have a negative effect” on bilateral relations between the United States and Japan, James Schoff, a Washington-based expert, said.

“There will be a little bit less trust, less confidence by Japan in America writ large,” said Schoff, senior associate of the Asia Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

In early March a group of Republican security experts, including former Cabinet members, released an open letter criticizing Trump’s remarks on foreign policy, saying, “We are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency.”

“His insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well since World War II,” they said. The undersigned included former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

Japan earmarked ¥189.9 billion to host U.S. military bases in Japan in the current fiscal year through March 31.

Trump also criticized a sweeping free trade deal President Barack Obama’s administration signed with Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries.

Approval by the U.S. Congress is necessary for the Trans-Pacific Partnership to take effect, but Trump and other candidates such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who leads the Democratic nomination race, are critical of the initiative.

“Every month that goes by I think it gets harder and harder,” Schoff said, referring to passage of the TPP through the legislature, given Trump’s growing sway over the Republican Party, which normally has been supportive of free trade.

“That would have a long-term impact on … America’s reputation in the region and on that issue going forward,” Schoff said.

  • Jim Fujii

    It is Sanders and not Clinton among the Democratic candidates, who has consistently opposed the TPP. So why mention Clinton, as if Sanders doesn’t exist?

    • Rebecca

      That seems to be the strategy of the media everywhere. Ignore Bernie and hope his supporters will give up. Sanders’ thoughtful and considered response to the violence in Chicago had to be posted in the comments on the Guardian site. The journalist didn’t bother in the article.

    • Rebecca

      That seems to be the strategy of the media everywhere. Ignore Bernie and hope his supporters will give up. Sanders’ thoughtful and considered response to the violence in Chicago had to be posted in the comments on the Guardian site. The journalist didn’t bother in the article.

    • Rebecca

      That seems to be the strategy of the media everywhere. Ignore Bernie and hope his supporters will give up. Sanders’ thoughtful and considered response to the violence in Chicago had to be posted in the comments on the Guardian site. The journalist didn’t bother in the article.

  • Jim Fujii

    It is Sanders and not Clinton among the Democratic candidates, who has consistently opposed the TPP. So why mention Clinton, as if Sanders doesn’t exist?

  • tisho

    Actually everything he says about Japan is accurate, his solutions are inaccurate, but he correctly points out the problems, most of the time.

    • Jimmy Boy

      Yup, that’s why so many agree in his party, even if they don’t like the way it’s being presented.

      • tisho

        Same can be said about Bernie Sanders as well, he correctly points out a lot of the problems, but his solutions are terribly wrong and harmful. Trump by the way is not a conservative at all, his way of thinking is very similar to the Democrats, which might explain why his solutions are so terribly wrong.

  • zer0_0zor0

    America, the home of built-in obsolescence…frump the mogul’s mouth.

    Trump and Obama have a lot in common; they are both duplicitous poseurs.

    • Bernadette Soubirous

      A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true, for if the things be false, the apprehension of them is not understanding.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Trump may be a foul individual. But everything he has said about Japan is true.

  • Steve Jackman

    Trump is absolutely correct in his criticism of Japan. Japan helps its exports by devaluing the value of the Yen, whose value has plummeted by more than forty percent against the US Dollar. Japan also engages in systematic unfair business practices at home to protect its domestic market from foreign competition. This is clear from the dozens of American companies which have been forced to leave Japan or severely downsize their operations here due to Japanese regulators unfairly targeting them.

    There is also the issue of poor and unfair treatment of American citizens living in Japan, where they are routinely denied basic civil and human rights in almost all areas, including employment, housing, education, and access to businesses, etc. On top of all of this, Japan has been getting a free ride by having the U.S. spend tens of Billions of dollars on defending Japan. The money Japan saves from this is then redirected into the private sector to help Japanese corporations beat American companies in trade. The whole U.S. Japan alliance is a terrible deal foe America and Trump is correct to challenge the status quo.

    • Jimmy Boy

      the Yen really should be compared to the penny, it’s worth anywhere from 80% of a penny to 120% of a penny.

    • Jimmy Boy

      the Yen really should be compared to the penny, it’s worth anywhere from 80% of a penny to 120% of a penny.

    • tisho

      Trade is not a zero sum game, you can’t beat someone at trade, trade is a win-win game, trade cannot exist unless both parties think they would benefit from the exchange, otherwise they would not agree to it. You can beat someone at market share, the only way to do that is by providing superior products at a better price than your competitors, when was the last time Japan had bigger market share than a foreign company in any country other than Japan? It was back in the 80s with the rise of Sony and NIntendo, once the other countries developed, Japanese companies can’t beat the competition because their entire business model is inner looking, designed to fit the Japanese domestic market, and because they lack any experience to compete with foreign companies in foreign countries, they are not able to compete. Docomo had the potential to be the Apple of Japan, but they royally blew it. Same can be said about NEC, and other Japanese companies, who were not interested in foreign markets, as a result now they are unable to compete not only abroad but in their own domestic market too. I predict Sony will be the next in line to have financial troubles, perhaps this time a Korean company will buy it, that will be epic to watch.

      • Steve Jackman

        Your theory about trade has a little problem, when you consider the heavy tarrif and non-tarrif barriers Japan has in place against imports, including a nearly 800 percent tax on rice imports into Japan. Sure, why don’t you tell American rice farmers how this is a win-win for them? It is this type of unfair trade which has resulted in the U.S. having a huge trade defecit with Japan. So, no, trade with Japan is not a win-win for America.

      • tisho

        But those tariffs hurt the Japanese consumers more than they hurt the American consumers. Trade war is like a race to the bottom, whoever win loses. Just because Japan is stupid enough to hurt themselves with those tariffs doesn’t mean Americans should do the same, if America also imposes tariffs, it will hurt Japan, but more so American consumers, so at the end nobody wins, both parties lose. Also, the way you view trade is incorrect and misleading, countries don’t trade with each other, only people trade, companies trade, not countries. If America imposes a tariff, it will hurt the people who buy from Japan, sell to Japan and trade with Japanese people/companies. When Japan imposes heavy tariffs on their agriculture, they make it almost impossible for American companies to sell to Japanese consumers, but that hurts the Japanese consumers much more than it hurts those companies who didn’t get a chance to sell their products, because while the American company missed a market to sell its goods, the Japanese consumers now have fewer alternatives, which results in their standards of living being lower, the American company will most likely sell its goods to other markets. If there were no tariffs, the American company would’ve benefited by selling its goods, and the Japanese consumes would’ve benefited by having more alternatives. Trade war/tariffs benefits nobody, it hurts the domestic market of the country that imposed them more than it hurts the foreign competition that didn’t get a chance to sell its goods, and as a result made less profit.

      • blimp

        Tisho,
        For that post I salute you.
        Now, I am very biased but introductory economics or a course in international economics should be mandatory.

      • Steve Jackman

        Your theory about trade has a little problem, when you consider the heavy tarrif and non-tarrif barriers Japan has in place against imports, including a nearly 800 percent tax on rice imports into Japan. Sure, why don’t you tell American rice farmers how this is a win-win for them? It is this type of unfair trade which has resulted in the U.S. having a huge trade defecit with Japan. So, no, trade with Japan is not a win-win for America.

  • Dimi Gronnings

    Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders receives no mention in this piece, why?

    • http://godfather.wikia.com/wiki/Michael_Corleone The Don Michael Corleone

      If you have not noticed this already, Japan Times has always favored the republicans over democrats subliminally and let’s not forget the nationalistic “conservative” vibe it carry.

  • GBR48

    Abenomics has involved currency manipulation to boost exports – Clinton has raised the issue too.

    Objections to the TPP by both sides in the nomination races are interesting, as you would expect both Republicans and Clinton to be pro-TPP. Anti-TPP campaigners are usually from the political left (like Sanders).

    Complaints about Japan getting a discounted defence package from the US armed forces suggest that Trump would wish to pull the US back from global intervention. He has already suggested that he would prefer to allow North Korea to be dealt with by China. This, and his attitude to Abenomics, suggests that he is primarily viewing Japan as a trading competitor rather than a geographically useful ally. Whilst most US politicians would see a US military presence in a country like Japan as geopolitically beneficial, Trump wants to increase the fees for defence as a service industry. He is, after all, a business man, not a politician, so no surprise that he values the bottom line over political influence.

    A Trump presidency would presumably see Tokyo and Seoul getting a large bill for ‘protection’.

    • Heather

      And a Japan saying piss off, we will reform our armed forces to the fullest and screw the US. There’s already grumbling a about that here. That will inflame China and the Koreas. Tensions in the region will rise and it’ll be a clusterf**k!

    • zer0_0zor0

      How ’bout that “Quantitative Easing“?

      It would be good if the US military footprint in Asia was downsized, in conjunction with measures toward peace, like resolution of territorial disputes.

      Meanwhile, Obama has encouraged the LDP to enact a State Secrets Act, implement a National Security Council along the lines of the US model, and is in support of revising the Constitution to negate Article 9.

      • Jonathan Fields

        That was Obama that did that, huh? Not the hardline right-winger with a war criminal family past that runs the country? Obama did it? Really?

  • http://godfather.wikia.com/wiki/Michael_Corleone The Don Michael Corleone

    And why do I have a feeling that Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party secretly want Trump to win? I don’t know why but it is just a gut feeling. The Japan Times seems to like him a lot.

  • Marius Kraamwinkel

    Maybe Trump has forgotten that the US made Japan abolish its army after WWII. Abe wants Japan to assume a more mature military role and still be an ally.

  • Steve Jackman

    Karri Anderson, you claim to have run your own business in Japan, so I’m surprised that you don’t know the answers to your own questions since this information is common knowledge for anyone involved with business in Japan. What was the name of your business, years it operated in Japan, the type of your business, number of employees and annual revenues?

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      Only 1 comment, I smell a shill.

      • Steve Jackman

        My sentiments, exactly.

  • philnolan3d

    I think, and hope for all of our sake, that his popularity will drop off when it comes to election time. More than half of America can’t be that dumb.