Trump, Abe reaffirm their differences on trade-related issues

Erika Holt
April 20, 2018

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday they had failed to reach a deal that would exempt Japan from new US steel and aluminum tariffs, as Abe had wanted. He's met with the billionaire businessman more than any other world leader, and he is Trump's second-most frequent caller.

"The media has not covered the TPP correctly", Trump complained, standing next to Abe after their talks in Florida. But Abe's arrival was swiftly overshadowed by news that Trump had sent Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang for talks with Kim Jong Un in preparation for a summit, a reminder of fears in Tokyo that Japan could be left out of talks key to its own national security.

Skeptical of multilateral institutions and agreements, the Republican businessman-turned-president has preferred a trade strategy of divide and conquer, although that has yet to bear fruit. And Japan has previously voiced reluctance to negotiating a bilateral trade deal with the USA, saying it would prefer the US rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Trump-Abe summit has played out amid growing tensions between the two countries over North Korea and trade.

Trump confirmed the meeting in a tweet Wednesday, saying "a good relationship was formed" heading into his anticipated summit with Kim.

"While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don't like the deal for the United States".

Trump also suggested that Japan could get an exclusion from the so-called Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum if the two countries can reach a trade deal. "They are greatly contributing to industries and employment in the United States". He applauded Trump's courage for agreeing to meet with Kim and marveled at Mar-a-Lago, calling Trump's estate "a gorgeous place". Trump and Abe spent Wednesday morning golfing at one of Trump's nearby courses in their latest show of "golf diplomacy", and had an intimate dinner on Tuesday evening with their wives. "And now we are going to have our dinner". And right from the beginning we hit it off.

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"The U.S.is committed to free, fair and reciprocal - very important word - trade, and we're committed to pursuing a bilateral trading relationship that benefits both of our great countries", Trump said. "I think it's better for our country, I think it's better for our workers, and I much would prefer a bilateral deal, a deal directly with Japan". "And based on that position, we shall be dealing with the talks", he said.

Except it didn't turn out that way.

Last week, Trump made a surprise move to instruct officials to study the possibility of rejoining the TPP.

Abe, who has been concerned over failed past attempts at dialogue with Pyongyang, said that "past mistakes should never be repeated".

This is part of an all-day summit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago hotel in Palm Beach. They like it; I like it. Trump said he wanted to see the "families reunited as soon as possible", adding that the U.S.

Trump's most frequent caller is the president of France, Emmanuel Macron.

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