WASHINGTON – Donald Trump plans to appoint William Hagerty, a key member in his transition team, as ambassador to Japan, an aide inside the U.S. president-elect’s inner circle said Wednesday.
Hagerty’s purported appointment, a move that appears to show Trump is placing weight on U.S. ties with Tokyo, has already been conveyed to the Japanese government, the aide said.
Hagerty is in charge of political appointees for Cabinet and other senior posts in the Trump administration, which takes office Jan. 20.
The Tennessee native is said to have close ties with the Republican establishment, partly because he worked for the 2012 presidential campaign for then Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Hagerty also served under the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
Hagerty is no stranger to Japan. He lived in Tokyo for about three years when he was working for the Boston Consulting Group.
He has built ties within Japanese economic circles through his posting to Japan as well as his work as manager for economic development in the state government of Tennessee.
While he served as Tennessee’s Commissioner of Economic Development, which is in charge of trade, jobs and economic growth for the state, Hagerty reportedly helped Japanese companies to start businesses there, earning him a reputation as a Japan sympathizer.
However, some American researchers on Japan say they have “no idea” who Hagerty is.
If Trump nominates Hagerty and Congress confirms his nomination, he will replace Caroline Kennedy, who took up the ambassadorship in Tokyo in 2013.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Kennedy will leave office and return to the United States before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Jason Hyland will run the mission until the next U.S. envoy takes office.
Japan’s top spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Thursday he will refrain from commenting on the anticipated appointment of Hagerty, saying, “There has not been an announcement from Mr. Trump’s side.”
Suga told reporters he believes the incoming ambassador’s role is to “develop friendly relations between Japan and the United States.”
Several names have been floated as Trump’s possible choice for ambassador to Japan including Jon Huntsman, a former ambassador to China, and Bobby Valentine, who managed a professional Japanese baseball team.
Trump has so far picked Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China and campaign adviser David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer, to serve as ambassador to Israel.