With Abe, Trump reiterates lack of enthusiasm for TPP
President Donald Trump recently tweeted that he would be interested in rejoining the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement from which he withdrew, but on Thursday at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he restated his dislike for TPP and his preference for bilateral trade treaties.
Farm leaders who had backed TPP had praised Trump’s tweet that he might reengage on the deal.
“The media has not covered the TPP correctly,” Trump said at a joint news conference with Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. “I don’t want to go back into TPP, but if they offered us a deal that I can’t refuse, on behalf of the United States, I would do it.
“But I like bilateral. I think it’s better for our country. I think it’s better for our workers,” Trump said. “And I much would prefer a bilateral deal, a deal directly with Japan. We already have a deal with six of the 11 nations in the TPP. So we already have trade deals, and the others we can make very easily. They’re all calling wanting to make a deal. But we think that’s much better for us.”
“We’re also working to improve our economic partnership by reducing our trade imbalance and removing barriers to U.S. exports. The United States 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.
Abe committed to trade talks, but not to a bilateral deal, as Washington Trade Daily noted.
“In order to benefit both Japan and the U.S., we’ll further expand trade and investment between the two countries,” Abe said.
“Building upon that foundation, we’ll aim to realize economic development in the free and open Indo-Pacific region based on fair rules. To make that happen, at this time, President Trump and I agreed to start talks for free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals.”
Responding to a question about Japan’s inclusion in the group of countries whose steel and aluminum exports to the United States will be subject to tariffs, Abe said, “As for Section 232, Japanese steel and aluminum would not exert any negative influence on the U.S. security.”
“Rather, it’s a position that the quality of Japanese product is high. Many of those products are difficult to be replaced with, and they are greatly contributing to the U.S. industries and employment. So recognizing that, we’d like to continue to respond to this matter going forward.”
Trump said, “I will add that the 232, having to do with aluminum and steel tariffs — 30 percent, in one case; 25 percent and 10 percent — that it’s got us to the bargaining table with many nations, and, in other cases, they’re paying. And it’s billions of dollars coming into the coffers of the United States. So they’ve been, actually, very important.
“If you look at what we did with solar panels, where we put 30 percent tariffs on, we had 32 companies opened with pretty new plants, because it’s a relatively new industry. Of the 32 plants, 30 were closed and two were not doing well. Since putting the tariffs on, the two are doing very well, seven or eight are going to be opening, and a lot more will open.
“Same thing with washing machines. We were, believe it not, having washing machines dumped all over the country. We put tariffs on, and we’re now opening up and expanding companies that create and make — which is actually a very big business — washing machines and dryers.
“So the workers of our country know what’s happening. We have companies moving up from Mexico — automobile companies — and they’re building new plants in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and expanding their plants. A lot of things are happening. Our country is doing very, very well. And it’s going to continue. It’s going to continue. A lot of great momentum.”
Trump also said, “The United States has a massive trade deficit with Japan. It’s anywhere from $69 billion to $100 billion a year. That’s massive by any standpoint. We are doing 232 on steel and aluminum. And if we can come to an arrangement on a new deal between the United States and Japan, that would certainly be something we would discuss — aluminum tariffs and steel tariffs. And I would look forward to being able to, at some point in the future, take them off.
“But right now we have a deficit that’s a minimum of $69 billion a year. Japan sends us millions and millions of cars, and we tax them virtually not at all. And we don’t send so much product because we have trade barriers and lots of other things. So these are the things that the prime minister and I are going to be discussing over the next short period of time.
“So unless they offer us a deal that we cannot refuse, I would not go back into TPP. We’ll see what happens. But in the meantime, we’re negotiating. And what I really prefer is negotiating a one-on-one deal with Japan.
“And that’s where we are right now, and I will say that the representatives who are sitting right here are extraordinarily competent and very tough — those representing Japan. And we will hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, have a very good deal — good for Japan and good for the United States,” Trump said.
On a lighter note, Abe mentioned at a separate media availability before dinner that he had two lunches on Thursday, including a cheeseburger at the Trump golf course.
White House summary
In an official summary of the meeting, the White House said, “President Trump affirmed the importance of further progress in the area of bilateral economic, trade, and investment ties, noting the United States’ persistent trade deficit with Japan.”
“President Trump stressed his expectation that as allies and like-minded global economic players, Japan and the United States will take new steps to expand bilateral trade and investment in order to strengthen economic growth and job creation.
“Accordingly, the two leaders agreed to intensify trade and investment discussions, building on progress achieved in the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue. For the United States, these consultations for free, fair, and reciprocal trade and investment will be led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“The two leaders committed to advance discussions on how both countries can serve as a model for bilateral and global trade and investment promotion in the 21st century. The two leaders also committed to coordinate enforcement activities against unfair trade practices by third countries.
“President Trump and Prime Minister Abe affirmed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region underpinned by respect for the shared norms and values that enable every responsible nation in the region to prosper.
“President Trump and Prime Minister Abe affirmed that infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific should be market-based, clean and transparent, responsibly financed, and feature open and fair access, social and environmental considerations, and standards of good governance.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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