Abe to Tout Japanese Contributions to U.S. Jobs, Economy

By Toshio Aritake

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe heads to Washington Feb. 10, and while there he will work to calm the new U.S. administration’s concerns about currency values and the U.S. trade deficit—much of which is linked to automotive trade, a senior official said.

Abe’s summit with President Donald Trump will focus on trade and investment and what Japan has done to accommodate U.S. automobile exports. What will be off the table is any talk of the U.S. reconsidering its withdrawal from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, other sources said.

“We expect constructive discussions to take place for building a win-win relationship between the two countries by deepening our bilateral relationship and cooperation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at his regular news conference Feb. 8.

It will be the first summit between the two leaders since Trump took the oath of office, becoming the 45th president of the U.S.

Coterie of Ministers

Suga noted that Japan has been investing heavily in the U.S., plowing $411 billion into the country and helping to create approximately 840,000 jobs, a clear indication of “mature” bilateral relationship. He added that Japan will work to help President Donald Trump understand U.S.-Japan investment and the two countries’ relationship.

Abe will be accompanied by all of his top ministers even though the Diet (parliament) is in session. Accompanying the prime minister will be Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said Feb. 8.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Narushige Seko had planned to attend, but he called off his visit pending confirmation of his counterpart Wilbur Ross to head the U.S. Commerce Department, a ministry spokesman said. The U.S. Senate has yet to schedule a floor vote on Ross’s nomination. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the Ross nomination by voice vote on Jan. 24.

Contributions to U.S. Jobs, Growth

Abe won’t ask Trump to rethink the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but he may explain the benefits to the U.S. of an Asia-Pacific-wide trade framework that the two countries would lead, government sources told Bloomberg BNA. The idea would appear to counter U.S. interest in negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan, which Tokyo is reluctant to pursue because it wants to protect its agriculture markets.

Abe is expected to tell Trump that Japanese businesses can make further contributions to the U.S. economy that would create more American jobs and advance U.S. technologies, sources told Bloomberg BNA. Those contributions could deepen the two countries’ long-term collaboration in such areas as artificial intelligence, robotics, medical products, pharmaceuticals and social infrastructure, notably high-speed rail services, they said.

Those ideas are being compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as a “U.S.-Japan growth and job initiative,” they said. No details were available.

Japanese officials hope that package will work to quell Trump’s concerns about the yen and Japan’s trade surplus with the U.S., including its auto trade surplus.

To contact the reporter on this story: Toshio Aritake in Tokyo at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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