The US trade dispute with China may be hogging the mainstream headlines. But US President Donald Trump has far more than China in his crosshairs. Trump is pressing for fairer trade deals across the world, including traditional allies like Mexico and Canada, the European Union and Japan.
While Trump may have thought he was doing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a favour by forecasting a favourable deal for both nations was on the horizon, his pronouncement comes at a tricky time ahead of this northern summer’s Japanese elections.
Japan rolled out the red carpet for Trump this week — golf trips, a sumo match (in which Trump himself presented a Championship cup), a state dinner with the new Emperor and inspections of US and Japanese warships. But overshadowing it all, was the feud of the two-way trade gap…
Japan trip not as sunny as hoped
It seems Trump can’t be swayed by sweet talk — and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Following the Monday summit, Trump said he expected Japan to be ‘announcing some things, probably in August, that will be very good for both countries’ regarding trade agreements — hoping Japan would succumb to Washington’s wishes.
But the day afterwards, Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Trump’s comment meant nothing more than his hope for quick progress and was nowhere near true.
It seems like some things as raw as trade are not so easily resolved — with Japanese officials denying that a deal would be made as soon as August, or at all. Especially right now, with Japanese elections right around the corner.
According to Reuters, a concession on trade would stir Japanese voters (and most problematically farmers, the most important backers of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party) right before an upper house election, which could be catastrophic.
However, if concessions were to be made, consumers could see cheaper food products, which may be an attractive push. But, it seems a long way off for now.
Cheaper food, but at what cost?
‘When you look at the exact wording of his comments, you can see that the president was voicing his hopes of swift progress in talks toward something that is mutually beneficial,’ the minister told reporters. Though, this would not be the case.
Yukio Edano, head of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) responded to Trump’s comments this week:
‘Trump’s comments can only be taken to mean that Japan has in fact made major concessions on agriculture and livestock.
‘We cannot allow them to fight the upper house election by hiding this.’
The whole issue comes from Washington’s demand for Tokyo to cut their tariffs on US farm products, in order to restore their competitiveness, Reuters reports. Falling under an 11-nation trade pact, which Trump has rejected, Japan has threatened to cut ties to agreements made in the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP). Some have interpreted Trump’s comments as saying he wants nothing to do with said partnership.
It seems Abe’s secrets, conveniently close to an election, are out for all to see…
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