US, Japan may unveil progress on trade deal in August

14:08 | 28/05/2019 Cooperation

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he needs to correct a "tremendous" trade imbalance with Japan while meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, suggesting there may be a major announcement on the issue in August.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with PM Shinzo Abe on May 27 - Photo: AFP

"Trade-wise, I think we will be announcing some things probably in August that will be very good for both countries," Trump said at the outset of the leaders' meeting in Tokyo, adding both countries will work to rectify what the U.S president sees as a lack of fairness in his country's economic relationship with Japan.

Abe is hosting Trump on a four-day state visit seen largely as ceremonial rather than substantive, hoping to showcase their close personal relationship.

The U.S. leader is being received as the first state guest of Reiwa, Japan's new imperial era, and his meeting Monday with Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the throne on May 1, and Empress Masako was one of the highlights.

"I'd like to have in-depth discussions over global challenges such as North Korea, the U.S. and Japanese economies, and coordinate bilateral efforts toward a successful Group of 20 summit" in Osaka in late June, Abe said.

Trump, sitting alongside Abe, said the bilateral relationship has "never been better than it is right now" as both nations are "committed" to each other.

Behind the projection of personal rapport, bilateral tensions over trade are simmering as negotiators have so far failed to bridge the wide gap between them and reach a deal as pursued by Trump, who told Japanese business leaders in Tokyo, including the president of Toyota Motor Corp., that he wants a fair and reciprocal relationship.

Japanese and U.S. officials have downplayed the prospect of a major breakthrough at the summit -- the second of three planned over a three-month period.

Trump's comments came after he tweeted Sunday that "great progress" has been made in trade negotiations but added, "Much will wait until after (Japan's) July elections where I anticipate big numbers!"

Japan has secured some breathing space as the United States delayed higher duties on cars and auto parts for up to six months, though there is a persisting concern that the Trump administration will take advantage of the threat of levies and import quotas to pressure Tokyo into making concessions.

As American farmers have become less competitive due to Trump's aversion to multilateral free trade agreements, such as a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership from which the U.S. leader withdrew, Washington is urging Tokyo to cut tariffs on farm products such as beef, pork and wheat.

Japan, for its part, has been calling for the removal of U.S. duties on imported industrial products.

Besides the sensitive issue of trade, Abe and Trump will likely agree on the need to coordinate policy on North Korea and to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of China's growing clout...

Trump plans to visit Japan again for a Group of 20 summit in Osaka on June 28 and 29.