WASHINGTON: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he wants to build a “relationship of trust” with US President Donald Trump, and stressed the economic and trade ties between the country are a “win-win.”
Abe spoke in Washington before meeting with Trump later in the day against a backdrop of uncertainty in Tokyo over Trump’s stances on trade, defense commitments and treatment of close allies.
“I wish to firmly build a relationship of trust at the leadership level with my visit to the United States, and to show to our people and the world the unwavering alliance between Japan and the United States,” he told an audience of business leaders at the start of his two-day visit.
Abe highlighted the hundreds of thousands of American jobs created by the vast Japanese investments in the United States.
Most budget cars sold by Toyota and Honda are “produced in US factories by American workers,” he said, noting that US investments by Japanese companies total $411 billion, generating 840,000 jobs.
“Nobody in Japan complains that his or her job has been taken away by the Americans, because the Japanese has gained in business as well.”
It is “truly a win-win relationship.”
The comment appeared to be in reference to Trump’s frequent attacks on US companies sending jobs overseas.
Abe warned against reverting to the kind of antagonistic relations of the 1990s, when Washington and Tokyo were embroiled in trade disputes over auto imports.
“Our two nations were trapped in a zero-sum game mindset, of what one nation gains the other will suffer losses,” he said.
Through consultations the countries “eventually found a path to positive-sum game,” he said.
Economists often accuse Trump — who has threatened to impose import tariffs on goods from Mexico and China — of looking at trade relations in outdated terms, where any jobs lost by Americans or imports come at the expense of the US economy.
Abe acknowledged that there are problems to be resolved in global trade, which is now growing more slowly than GDP, including a glut of steel that has depressed prices, and weak protection of intellectual property that can stifle innovation.
In a thinly-veiled jab at China, Abe said, “Overproduction in a certain country has not ceased. As a consequence, increase in exports results in a depressed price worldwide.”
“It will be exceedingly timely for I and President Trump to compare notes on the future global outlook, and discuss in depth what roles we can mutually play, and how to work more closely in cooperation,” Abe said.
“I am hoping in earnest that my visit this time will usher in a new era of our bilateral economic relations.”
Abe noted he will meet with Trump in Washington and in Florida, and the summit is the focus of worldwide attention. The leaders are expected to play golf at Trump’s resort in Florida.