Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to meet the head of Toyota Motor Corp. this week, two sources familiar with the matter said, as Tokyo scrambles to respond to rising pressure on trade under new U.S. President Donald Trump.
One of the sources said Abe will meet with Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda on Friday.
It was reported that they are likely to discuss trade issues involving automobiles, as Abe prepares to meet Trump on Feb. 10 for talks during which the U.S. leader is expected to seek quick progress toward a two-way trade deal with Japan.
In a phone call with Abe on Saturday, Trump reiterated his initiative to create jobs in the United States and asked that the Japanese auto industry contribute, the Nikkei business daily reported, quoting unidentified Japanese government officials.
The two leaders discussed the automotive industry, senior government spokesman Koichi Hagiuda told reporters after the phone call, without giving details. A White House statement said the two “committed to deepen the bilateral trade and investment relationship.”
Abe has left open the door to discussing a free trade agreement with the United States but some officials worry Japan will have little to gain while coming under intense pressure from Washington. Bilateral talks on specific sectors such as autos, however, are an option, officials have said.
Trump, who last week pulled the U.S. out of the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership pushed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and favored by Abe, has also attacked Japan’s auto market as closed in an echo of criticism heard decades ago.
Japanese officials have rejected that criticism, saying Japan does not impose tariffs on U.S. auto imports nor put up discriminatory non-tariff barriers.