WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump pressed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to have Japanese automakers produce more vehicles in the United States, according to a readout of their recent meeting provided by the U.S. ambassador to Japan on Saturday.
The two discussed recent public announcements by Japanese carmakers, including Toyota Motor Corp.’s decision to invest more in U.S. plants.
“We talked about the need to see more movement in that direction but I think the president feels very positive that we will see such movement because all the economics support that,” said Ambassador William Hagerty.
Trump told a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Saturday that Abe said Japan would invest $40 billion in U.S. car factories, though Trump did not give details on the timeline for the planned investments.
Toyota, Japan’s largest automaker, said last month it would exceed a 2017 pledge to invest $10 billion over five years with a new commitment to reach nearly $13 billion over that period.
Trump has prodded Japanese automakers to add more jobs in the United States as the White House threatens to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported vehicles, on the grounds of national security.
Trump on Friday said it is possible that the United States and Japan could reach a new bilateral trade deal by the time he visits Tokyo in May, but he and Abe cited areas where they differ on trade.
“We want to ensure that the U.S. has trading terms with Japan that are no less favorable than any other nation,” Hagerty said in a phone call with reporters.
The pair also confirmed a joint desire to eliminate oil imports from Iran, Hagerty said, adding that the two leaders discussed a “desire to see Iran change its path and seek a more peaceful course forward.”
He added that Trump is planning to attend the summit of the Group of 20 industrialized nations set to take place in the city of Osaka in June.
Separately, Trump was optimistic trade talks with China would be successful, the ambassador said.
The news came after Trump hit the golf course Saturday with Abe.
With Abe in Washington, the golf-mad pair set off in the morning for the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, around 30 miles (48 km) from the White House.
The two leaders struck up something of a “bromance” during Trump’s visit in November 2017 as they traded fist-bumps and tucked into burgers at a golf club outside Tokyo.
And Japan, which closely aligns its foreign policy with the United States, has publicly backed Trump’s drive to make peace with North Korea — although it has been cautious on chances for success.
Trump will become the first foreign leader to greet the new emperor of Japan, Naruhito, when he travels there on May 25 to 28.