Trump Meets Japan’s Abe at the G-20 Summit

Both leaders discussed trade and defense
June 27, 2019 Updated: June 27, 2019

OSAKA, Japan— President Donald Trump held a bilateral meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe June 28 ahead of the Group of Twenty (G-20) leaders summit to discuss trade and regional security.

Before the start of the meeting, Trump mentioned his state visit to Tokyo last month and the sumo wrestling match he attended during the visit.

“We just left Japan and now I’m back,” Trump joked, adding that everybody was talking about the sumo tournament all over the world.

Trump thanked Abe for Japanese investments in the United States.

“I appreciate the fact that you’re sending many automobile companies into Michigan, and Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and North Carolina—a lot of our states,” Trump said. “They’re building magnificent plants.”

After the bilateral meeting, the White House stated that both leaders discussed the ongoing bilateral trade negotiations between the United States and Japan.

“They reaffirmed their commitment to U.S.-Japan coordination on shared security challenges, including on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran,” according to a White House statement.

Trump and Abe also discussed the steps to bolster “systems to safeguard sensitive information and technology sharing.”

The leaders of the world’s largest economies have gathered in Osaka for the 14th G-20 summit that will run through June 28-29. The Japanese have laid out an ambitious agenda for this year’s summit that includes economic growth, trade, investment, innovation, climate change, energy, quality infrastructure, workforce, women’s empowerment, global aging, and health issues. Trade matters, however, are expected to take the center stage at the summit.

This is the president’s third official visit to Japan. Abe has strategically developed a special relationship with Trump and made Japan probably the most important ally for the United States, according to experts.

“Prime Minister Abe, I think, has sort of set the gold standard for how you manage relations with our president,” said Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He’s had far more time in person, on the phone, and on the golf links with Donald Trump than any other world leader,” he told reporters on June 21.

Green also said that the Japanese side has been pretty happy with the Trump administration’s hard stance against Beijing on trade.

However, Japan is worried about whether the president is seriously going to move forward with Section 232 tariffs on automobiles.

The auto industry is integral to Japan’s manufacturing and economy. Automotive exports to the United States are a key source of growth for the nation, accounting for nearly 1 percent of its gross domestic product.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said June 18 at a Senate hearing that he hoped to reach a bilateral trade agreement with Japan within the next few months. He also said Washington was making headway in negotiations on opening up Japan’s market to U.S. agriculture sector.

Japan is the world’s fourth-largest importer of agricultural products.

Trilateral Summit

(L-R) US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting during the G20 Osaka Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

After the talks, both leaders met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which marked the second Japan-U.S.-India trilateral summit meeting. The leaders discussed strengthening the trilateral partnership and working towards realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Planned discussion topics included “strong naval cooperation,” following up on a recent joint exercise in the South China Sea, a White House official told reporters after the trilateral meeting between Trump, Abe, and Modi.

Trump also held a separate bilateral meeting with Modi.

“I think we going to have some very big things to announce. Very big trade deal,” Trump told reporters before his meeting with Modi.

Trump earlier said that tariffs imposed by India on the United States were “unacceptable.”

“I look forward to speaking with Prime Minister Modi about the fact that India, for years having put very high Tariffs against the United States, just recently increased the Tariffs even further,” he wrote on Twitter on June 27. “This is unacceptable and the Tariffs must be withdrawn!”

During his meeting with Modi, Trump also commented on the Iran situation, saying that he hoped it would “work out.”

“There’s no rush, they can take their time. There is absolutely no time pressure. Hopefully, in the end, it’s going to work out. If it does, great, if it doesn’t, you‘ll be hearing about it.”

Follow Emel on Twitter: @mlakan
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