Abe Open to Bilateral Trade Deal With U.S. After Trump Exits TPP

  • Trump and Abe may meet on Feb. 10 in Washington: report
  • Abe seeks stronger ‘deterrent power’ of U.S.-Japan alliance

How Trump's TPP Decision Impacts Asia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signaled that he’s open to a bilateral trade deal with the U.S. after Donald Trump formally withdrew from a 12-nation Asia-Pacific accord this week in one of his first acts as president.

One-on-one talks with the U.S. on a trade deal are “not absolutely impossible,” Abe told lawmakers on Thursday in Tokyo, adding that he’s finalizing negotiations for a summit with Trump. The leaders are set to have a phone conversation in the coming days before meeting in Washington on Feb. 10, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Thursday.

Abe, a key proponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade agreement, is seeking ways to boost economic relations with Japan’s only military ally. Trump prefers to negotiate bilateral trade deals and has warned that he might withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea and Japan if allies did not pay more for their services.

Asked in parliament about the potential fate of Japan’s sensitive agricultural sector in any bilateral talks, Abe vowed to “protect what must be protected.”

Abe said he wanted the Washington summit to show that the alliance between the two nations is “unshakable,” adding that he planned to discuss the East China Sea and the South China Sea. Japan relies on the U.S. for a “nuclear umbrella” to protect against regional threats including North Korea and China.

Asked by his former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to comment on bolstering Japan’s own defenses to enable pre-emptive strikes on missile bases, Abe said this was legally possible, but there was no plan to gain such capabilities.

“I want to strengthen the deterrent power of the entire U.S.-Japan alliance,” Abe said. “We must think about our own deterrence in the context of our defense-only policy and within the framework of the alliance.”

The first visit to Japan by a Trump administration official will be made by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Feb. 3. Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told parliament she welcomed the visit as a sign of America’s interest in Asia.

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