National / Politics

Trump prods Abe to shrink U.S.-Japan trade imbalance

Kyodo

U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday urged Japan to further open its market to American exports as part of an effort to address the trade imbalance.

During talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Trump raised the issue of the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and the importance of ensuring “mutual market access” between the two countries, according to a senior Japanese official.

The official declined to provide details about Trump’s remarks.

But the businessman-turned-president, who advocates “fair” trade, may have accused Japan of maintaining nontariff barriers to protect its automobile market and criticized Japan’s high import tariffs for foreign agricultural products.

Trump did not allude to the possibility of forming a bilateral free trade agreement, the official said.

The government has been wary about the idea because a Japanese-U.S. FTA could prompt the Trump administration to step up market-opening pressure on Tokyo, especially in the politically sensitive farm and automobile sectors.

Abe said Japan hopes to conduct “constructive” discussions on Japan-U.S. economic relations during the second round of the allies’ high-level economic dialogue slated to be held later this year.

The dialogue was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in April.

The United States sees economic relations with Japan as increasingly important, especially after Trump pulled Washington out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal in late January.

As of last year, the U.S. had a $347 billion trade deficit with China, followed by a $69 billion deficit with Japan, a $65 billion deficit with Germany and a $63 billion deficit with Mexico.

Last month, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer demanded that Japan make “unilateral concessions” on U.S. beef imports as a way of reducing its trade surplus with the United States.

During Saturday’s talks, Abe and Trump reaffirmed they would coordinate closely in reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and said the international community must address its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs “quickly and decisively,” according to the Japanese official and the White House.

The two leaders condemned Pyongyang’s test-launch of its first intercontinental ballistic missile last Tuesday, saying it shows “North Korea is a threat to the United States and its allies, and countries around the world,” the White House said in a statement.

“President Trump and Prime Minister Abe committed to redoubling their efforts to bring all nations together to show North Korea that there are consequences for its threatening and unlawful actions,” it said.

Trump also welcomed efforts by Japan and China to build “stable” relations, saying such a relationship between Asia’s two largest economies contributes to the peace and stability of the region, according to the Japanese official.

Abe said he looks forward to Trump making a visit to Japan, perhaps in November. Trump said he is excited about visiting Japan at an early date.

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