Obama, Japan’s Abe put joint face on trade
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will try Tuesday to strengthen economic ties while confronting stiff resistance from the U.S. leader’s own political party to a massive new Pacific Rim trade deal.
Trade is one of the top agenda items for Abe’s state visit to the U.S. as the two countries work toward a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that would further open vast Asian and Pacific rim markets to U.S. exports.
Abe’s visit comes as Obama’s negotiators attempt to complete the trade agreement, and as Obama seeks authority from Congress to put the deal, once completed, on a fast track to approval later this year. Obama is pressing for the trade agreement and the negotiating authority against mounting pressure from liberals and labor unions who fear trade agreements can cost American jobs.
The U.S. and Japan are the agreement’s biggest participants and the talks between the two countries would go far in advancing the broader negotiations. But while Obama and Abe won’t be ready to announce a trade break- through, officials on both sides say they will likely declare they have made considerable progress in closing remaining gaps. The toughest sticking points are U.S. tariffs on Japanese pickup trucks and barriers in Japan on certain U.S. agricultural products.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting and the pomp and circumstance of a state visit, Obama took Abe to the Lincoln Memorial Monday afternoon. Obama played tour guide, leading the Japanese leader up the steps into the memorial where they examined the Gettysburg Address sketched into the marble walls.