• Kyodo

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Wilbur Ross, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Commerce secretary, told Finance Minister Taro Aso of his interest in strengthening bilateral economic ties in a letter personally delivered by a representative in Tokyo on Thursday.

According to a source who sat in on the meeting at the Finance Ministry between Aso and a delegation representing Ross, a private equity investor who has had extensive business dealings in Japan, the letter included Ross’ view that Japan-U.S. cooperation is important.

The source said Ross’ representative and Aso exchanged views on the Trump administration’s likely economic policies and the Japanese government’s Abenomics economic and fiscal policy package.

Another member of the delegation, identifying himself as a financial adviser to Ross, told Kyodo News after the meeting that Ross is “very supportive of Japan.”

Ross and Aso had apparently planned a face-to-face meeting in Japan before Ross’ nomination prompted him to cancel the trip.

The letter follows Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with Trump in November at Trump’s residence in New York. Neither side revealed much about the content of the meeting, with Abe saying only he came away from the talks feeling he can build a relationship of trust with the president-elect.

Ross has long been a proponent of free trade but has criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact inked between Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim nations in February.

While Abe continues to encourage Japan’s ratification process and push for all signatories to remain committed to the deal, Trump has pledged to pull the United States out as soon as he takes office on Jan. 20.

Ross told a U.S. television channel Wednesday that the TPP is “not going to happen.”

“The TPP does not exist. It’s a fiction in most people’s minds at this point,” he told Fox Business, adding he agrees with Trump’s stance that the United States should instead work on bilateral deals.

Ross has a history of investing in distressed assets. His dealings in Japan have included the purchase and restructuring of Kofuku Bank, an Osaka-based regional bank that had been placed under state control after collapsing in 1999.

He is also the chairman of the Japan Society, a New York-based nonprofit organization that promotes relations between Japan and the United States.

The Japanese government awarded Ross with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, in 2014, for his efforts in advancing cultural exchanges and strengthening bilateral ties.

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