Abe Looks to Create U.S. Jobs After Trump Hits Out on Trade

  • Trump meeting on Feb. 10 should focus on more than trade: Abe
  • High-speed rail, shale-gas purchases under discussion: report

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe answers questions during a budget committee session of the House of Councilors on Jan. 30.

Photographer: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to discuss creating jobs and building infrastructure in the U.S. during a meeting with President Donald Trump next week, in a bid to defuse his concerns over trade.

The talks on Feb. 10 in Washington should focus on the full range of economic ties rather than just two-way trade, Abe told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday. Upon taking office, Trump pulled out of an Asia-Pacific trade deal backed by Abe and called the trade imbalance with Japan on vehicles “unfair.” On Tuesday he accused Japan of devaluing its currency.

Shinzo Abe on Feb. 1.

Photographer: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

“The question is whether it’s enough to look only at the difference between exports and imports -- I don’t think so at all,” Abe told the committee. “Through our close economic ties we have both profited greatly,” he said, adding, “it’s important for us to share that perception." He and senior aides also denied Trump’s charge of currency manipulation.

This isn’t the first time that Trump has raised the issue of Japan’s currency and relations with the U.S. On the campaign trail in 2015, he accused Japan of currency manipulation. At a press conference last month, he said the U.S. has a "trade imbalance" with Japan.

While Abe, his main lieutenant in the cabinet and Japan’s top foreign exchange official on Wednesday pushed back against Trump’s assertions, Abe is also anxious to preserve ties with Japan’s only treaty ally. The U.S. provides a “nuclear umbrella” to deter an expansionist China and unstable North Korea, and is Japan’s second-largest trading partner behind China.

Abe’s suggestions in parliament for improving ties included:

  • Creating employment in the U.S., including by Japanese companies
  • Helping improve U.S. industrial productivity and competitiveness
  • Cooperating on Trump’s infrastructure plans

High-Speed Rail

The Mainichi newspaper reported earlier that the Japanese government was preparing a package on economic cooperation to present to the Trump administration, including increasing purchases of U.S. shale gas and investing in high-speed rail projects in California and Texas.

For Abe it’s a fine line. Earlier this week he pushed back on Trump’s remarks that Japan had made it “impossible” for U.S. manufacturers to sell cars in the country, telling lawmakers that a lack of advertising and dealerships played a role. On Wednesday, he focused on the benefits Japanese automotive companies have brought to the U.S. economy, saying they’ve directly and indirectly created 1.5 million jobs.

Abe, who said he had told Trump by phone that the Toyota Camry model was 75 percent locally made in the U.S., was set to meet Toyota President Akio Toyoda on Friday, prior to his Washington trip, Kyodo News reported this week.

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