In Japan, president keys on trade deficit
But he says he’s not yet pushing for deal
TOKYO — President Donald Trump opened a state visit to Japan on Saturday by reminding the American ally of its trade imbalance with the United States — though he also tamped down expectations for a breakthrough in talks during his trip.
Fox News White House correspondent John Roberts tweeted early today that Trump called him this morning in Tokyo and said that, while he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will discuss trade during meetings today and Monday, Trump intends to wait until after Japan’s July elections to push for a deal.
Trump previously said a U.S.-Japan trade deal could be finalized during his trip, even though the two sides were still figuring out the parameters of the negotiations.
The call to Roberts apparently came hours after the president’s first event in Tokyo — a reception with several dozen Japanese and American business leaders at the U.S. ambassador’s residence. At that event, Trump said the two countries “are
hard at work” negotiating the trade agreement, which he said would remove barriers to U.S. exports and would benefit both countries.
“I would say that Japan has had a substantial edge for many, many years, but that’s OK,” Trump said, joking to the Japanese that “maybe that’s why you like me so much.”
Japan’s trade surplus with the United States surged almost 18% in April from a year ago, to $6.6 billion, even as Japan’s total exports fell for the fifth-straight month.
Trump promoted the U.S.’ standing under his leadership, saying that “there’s never been a better time” to invest or do business in America, and he urged corporate leaders to come.
He also praised the “very special” U.S.-Japan alliance that he said “has never been stronger, it’s never been more powerful, never been closer.”
Trump has threatened to impose 25% tariffs on foreign cars, including Japanese automobiles and auto parts, although he recently announced that the measure would be delayed six months to allow for talks on ways to restrict import volumes. Duties on the auto industry would be more devastating to the Japanese economy than earlier tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Trump also wants Japan to cut agricultural tariffs. Japan has already reached a deal with the European Union and is part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation trade deal, and both pacts have resulted in promises to cut agricultural tariffs for a swath of countries.
But Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal that divided politicians on both sides of the aisle and that was also opposed in the 2016 presidential campaign by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Because of the withdrawal, U.S. pork, wheat and barley exporters are said to be under pressure from Japanese tariffs.
Military issues are also on Trump’s agenda during the trip. Trump is keen to get Japan to pay more of the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the country, although Tokyo says it already covers most of the costs and that it pays a higher proportion than other host nations.
Bringing the troops back to the U.S. would be more expensive, it says.
Also at issue is the lingering threat of North Korea, which recently fired a series of short-range missiles despite an agreement for a moratorium on further testing.
Early today, Trump tweeted, “North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me.”
Trump may have been referring in part to his national security adviser, John Bolton, who told reporters Saturday that the short-range missile tests are a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The tests also alarmed Japan, where short-range missiles pose a serious threat.
Trump said he “has confidence” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “will keep his promise to me.”
In the same tweet, Trump embraced North Korea’s criticism of one of Trump’s Democratic presidential rivals. Trump tweeted that he “smiled” when Kim “called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?” An early version of the tweet misspelled the former vice president’s name.
After Biden called Kim a tyrant during a recent speech, North Korea labeled Biden a “fool of low IQ” and an “imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being.”
On another issue, Trump said early today that he would ask for an “expedited appeal” against a California judge’s ruling late Friday that plans to build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border can’t go forward without his review.
The injunction by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam prohibits the administration from starting work at two sites where contracts have been awarded, in Arizona and Texas.
In a Twitter message at 4:35 a.m. Tokyo time, Trump called the decision “a ruling against Border Security” by “another activist Obama appointed judge.”
Trump and Abe are also expected to discuss Iran after Friday’s announcement that the U.S. will send an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East to counter what the administration says are increased threats from the Islamic Republic. Japan has long-standing diplomatic and cultural ties to Iran, and it opposed the U.S. decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by then-President Barack Obama.
On Saturday, Japanese media said a plan was being drawn up for Abe to visit Iran in June to meet with President Hassan Rouhani in an attempt to mediate the dispute. The media said Japan’s leader would discuss that with Trump.
Bolton declined to comment Saturday when asked about possible Japanese mediation, except to say the two leaders will “certainly discuss Iran.”
Abe has planned a largely ceremonial four-day visit for the president.
The two leaders met at Mobara Country Club, south of Tokyo, early today to play a round of golf. It’s the fifth time they’ve golfed together.
Later today, Abe was scheduled to introduce Trump to sumo wrestling by taking him to sit ringside at a championship match. There, Trump would have the chance to present his “President’s Cup” trophy to the winner. The White House said the trophy is nearly 5 feet tall and weighs between 60 pounds and 70 pounds.
Today is scheduled to include a dinner double date with the two leaders and their wives.
On Monday, Trump and Abe plan to meet in a more formal setting and participate in a joint news conference.
That night, Trump will attend a formal banquet at Japan’s Imperial Palace and become the first head of state to meet Emperor Naruhito since he ascended to the throne this month. The abdication of Naruhito’s father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, marked the first time a Japanese emperor had stood down in more than two centuries.
“With all the countries of the world, I’m the guest of honor at the biggest event that they’ve had in over 200 years,” Trump said of the banquet before the trip.
On Tuesday, the president will tour a Japanese aircraft carrier, a flat-top that carries helicopters but is being converted to carry U.S. F-35B fighter jets, which are capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings. The stop is designed to underline Japan’s willingness to help defend itself and to purchase American military hardware when doing so.
Trump is also scheduled to address U.S. sailors aboard the USS Wasp, stationed at Yokosuka south of Tokyo, before returning to Washington.
Japan’s prime minister has been focused on maintaining a close relationship with Trump. The pair have spoken by telephone or met in person more than 40 times since late 2016.
The summit is the second of three scheduled meetings in three months: Abe and his wife, Akie, celebrated first lady Melania Trump’s birthday during a White House dinner last month, and Trump is expected to return to Japan next month for the Group of 20 meeting of rich and developing nations.
President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe head for a round of golf today at Mobara Country Club south of Tokyo. Later, they were to sit ringside at a sumo wrestling match.
President Donald Trump’s motorcade gets an escort to the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Tokyo on Saturday.