WASHINGTON – U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urged Japanese automakers Monday to reduce exports from Japan and Mexico while boosting production in the United States in order to slash the huge trade deficit.
“Automobiles are very important to U.S. trade deficits,” he said at an event on U.S.-Japan economic relations. “Changing rules in automotives are important to reducing our trade deficits.”
While noting that Japan is a major trading partner of the U.S., he said the partnership has resulted in a “very large” deficit and that Washington “would like to see more balance in that relationship.”
The remarks came after President Donald Trump signaled during his visit earlier this month that Japan should boost auto imports from the U.S.
“This administration is committed to trade policy that is free, fair, reciprocal and benefits both trading partners,” Ross said Monday.
He noted that Japan is one of the world’s largest automakers rolling out “high-quality, low-priced automobiles,” and voiced wonder at “why the industry needs strong protection against American imports.”
Planned taxation reform featuring substantial reductions in corporate taxes would make it “even more attractive” for Japanese companies to engage in production in the U.S., Ross said.
In particular, he welcomed the move by Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. to jointly set up a new factory in the U.S. to make Corolla sedans previously scheduled for production at a plant in Mexico, calling it a “further major investment.”
Ross reiterated the U.S. policy of favoring bilateral trade deals over multilateral ones such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in January.
“We withdrew from a bad deal, not from the region,” he said, adding that Washington will seek to promote economic benefits for itself and Japan through the bilateral economic dialogue.
He said Japan and other Asian nations “routinely have spurred free trade rhetoric” but “actually are far more protectionist” than the U.S.
The U.S. goods trade deficit with Japan amounted to $4.84 billion as of September, the fourth-largest with its trade partners. No. 1 was China at $34.64 billion, followed by Mexico at $5.70 billion and Germany at $5.36 billion.