National / Politics

Trump's ambassador pick for Japan optimistic on striking bilateral trade deal


The businessman in line to be American ambassador to Japan said Thursday that he was optimistic about reaching a trade deal with Japan that could mean equal or better results than the Asia-Pacific agreement that President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of after taking office.

William Hagerty told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and members of Trump’s Cabinet are engaged in an “economic dialogue” aimed at a bilateral trade pact with Japan. And making strides on a personal level with Japanese leaders.

Trump hosted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his “Winter White House” in Florida in February, and Pence communicates regularly with the deputy prime minister, Finance Minister Taro Aso, he said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross traveled to Japan in the early months of the Trump administration. The U.S. has tried to reassure Japan that Washington’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal did not signal a U.S. withdrawal from trade and economic development in the region.

“So at a personal level, at a relationship level, I see advancement taking place that encourages me that we will be able to still achieve a good deal of what we’d hoped to accomplish in the TPP, what might have been hoped before,” Hagerty said.

Hagerty is a founder and the managing director of Hagerty Peterson & Company, a private equity investment firm in Nashville, Tennessee, according to a brief biography on the company’s web site. He took a leave of absence last year to serve as director of presidential appointments for the Trump transition team.

A native of Tennessee, Hagerty graduated from Vanderbilt University with an economics degree and attended Vanderbilt Law School.