In Tokyo, Trump talks tough on trade deals

trump-abe-tokyoTOKYO: After friendly exchanges over hamburgers, wagyu steak and golf, US President Donald Trump hit out at the unbalanced trade practices between United States and Japan, the first country that he is visiting on his extensive Asia tour. Addressing business leaders before beginning formal talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on November 6, Mr. Trump expressed his disappointment with the massive trade deficit that the US has been putting up with for many years now.

“We have to do more. The United States has suffered massive trade deficits at the hands of Japan for many, many years… We want fair and open trade, but right now our trade with Japan is not fair and open,” Mr. Trump said. He added that the negotiations had to be done in a friendly manner.

Japan’s trade surplus stood at $69 billion with the United States last year, according to the Treasury Department. In 2016 Japan was the United States’ fourth largest goods export market, while the United States was Japan’s second biggest trade partner after China.

The US’s withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has hindered a breakthrough in troubled trade issues. The second round of economic talks in Washington last month between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso failed to make any advance. The US president voiced his displeasure regarding Japan’s safeguard mechanism on U.S. frozen beef imports, which imposes higher tariffs if quarterly imports rise more than 17 percent from the previous year and the small number of US automobiles that are sold in Japan despite the popularity of Japanese-made cars in the United States. It is likely that Japan will be forced to make the changes under pressure from US given the latter’s leverage in defence cooperation.

The US president was upbeat about Japan’s purchase of US military hardware that he called the “best military equipment in the world” and could “easily shoot” the North Korean missiles out of the sky. Earlier on his visit to the Yakota Air Base, the US Air Force base in Fussa in western Tokyo, Trump lashed out at the dictatorial regime of North Korea for its aggressive posturing without explicitly naming it. “Together with our allies, America’s warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities,” he said.

Mr. Trump has been very vocal about Japan’s large scale military build-up, though this island nation is not allowed to operate a full scale army under the constitution adopted after the Second World War. Mr. Abe confirmed Japan’s plan to purchase both the F-35A Lightning II and SM-3 Block IIA missiles from the U.S, while Japan’s Defence Ministry has made a request for an overall budget of ¥5.26 trillion, or $48 billion, for its military for the fiscal year 2018, the highest so far.

Mr Trump is set to meet Japanese citizens, whose loved ones were abducted by North Korea and will be attending the state banquet in the evening before he departs for Seoul early next morning.


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