ABOARD, AIR FORCE ONE - U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday the United States and Japan have started discussions over trade, saying that Tokyo “knows it’s a big problem” if an agreement cannot be reached, and that India has also asked to start talks on a trade deal.
“We’re starting that,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “In fact Japan has called us … they came last week.”
“If we don’t make a deal with Japan, Japan knows it’s a big problem,” he added.
Later in a speech in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Trump said: “India called us the other day. They said we’d like to start doing a trade deal. First time.”
“They wouldn’t talk about it with the previous administrations. They were very happy with the way it was,” he said without giving further details.
Trump, who is already challenging China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union on trade issues, has expressed displeasure about his country’s large trade deficit with Japan, but had not asked Tokyo to take specific steps to address the imbalance.
On Thursday, though, CNBC reported he had told a Wall Street Journal columnist he might take on trade issues with Japan, causing the dollar to slip against the yen.
The White House said Trump will push for fair trade.
“The president has been clear that he will fight to promote free, fair, and reciprocal trade with countries around the world, including Japan, that impose a range of restrictions on U.S. market access,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement.
“The United States and Japan have been in close contact on ways to address such barriers, including through the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue.”
Trade is likely to be a major topic when Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet around Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
The Trump administration has pushed Japan to start negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement, while Tokyo has repeatedly urged Washington to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member regional FTA from which Trump withdrew the United States last year.
The administration has also accused Japan of maintaining nontariff barriers for its automobile market while criticizing high import tariffs for foreign farm products.
Trump has threatened to impose additional tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts. If he follows through, the new duties will significantly impact major car exporters such as Japan.
Referring to simmering trade disputes with China, Trump said Friday a planned imposition of tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports “could take place very soon.”
The administration has imposed duties on a total of $50 billion in Chinese goods, with Beijing retaliating with tariffs on an equal value of U.S. goods.
Including the additional $200 billion worth of Chinese products, the United States would be taxing about half of the goods it imports from China each year.
However, Trump suggested he could do more to push for changes in Beijing’s “unfair” trade practices.
“Now we’ve added another $200 billion. And I hate to say that, but behind that, there’s another $267 billion ready to go on short notice if I want,” he said. “That totally changes the equation.”
Trump has demanded that China improve market access and intellectual property protections for American companies, remove industrial subsidies and cut its massive and chronic trade surplus with the United States.