Kristian Rouz — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he and US President Donald Trump met in New York Sunday to discuss trade and investment cooperation. PM Abe said the conversation was encouraging as it took place just ahead of the second round of US-Japanese trade negotiations, set to open this week.
The two leaders ended up talking for over 2.5 hours.
"We had a very constructive discussion on trade and investment between Japan and the United States," Abe said.
Abe and Trump also reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearising the Korean Peninsula. This comes despite some security experts in Japan having voiced concern over the recent rapprochement between the South and North Koreas, saying Seoul might be taking too soft of a stance on its northern neighbor.
"We agreed to make the momentum created in the historic US-North Korea summit in June even stronger and to continue to coordinate closely toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Abe said.
However, security challenges — including North Korea — are expected to be addressed at the UN meetings. This month, the US holds presidency at the UN Security Council, and the General Assembly meetings are expected to focus heavily on the agenda put forward by US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley.
For their part, Abe and Trump appear to be interested in striking a trade deal the most. Abe seeks exemptions from Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, and is interested in avoiding possible US tariffs on Japanese car imports.
"A 25-percent tariff on Japanese cars and car part exports will cut car companies' profits by almost 50 percent," Jesper Koll of WisdomTree Japan KK said. "It's a huge external threat that Japan is facing and Trump knows that."
Trump seeks to bolster America's economic presence in East Asia in the wake of a trade war with Mainland China. Some White House officials say a trade pact with Japan similar to the KORUS deal with Seoul could greatly enhance the US posture in international and especially regional trade.
"I will continue discussions on trade with him (Trump) in our summit after economy minister Motegi and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's meeting," Abe said.
According to Abe, his top trade negotiator, Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi, will meet with US Trade Representative Lighthizer Monday. They will exchange opinions on bilateral trade and prepare the agenda for the Trump-Abe meetings.
"Based on the common understanding we built in the first round of talks, we'll seek a ‘win-win' outcome that benefits both countries," Motegi said.
Meanwhile, Trump himself said he's quite optimistic of the outcome of his talks with Abe. Prior to his Sunday meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, Trump expressed confidence he and Abe could achieve a mutually beneficial agreement.
Last year, Japan had the third-largest trade surplus with the US after China and Mexico. The Japanese officials said they might agree to either reducing the amount of exports to the US or increasing the volume of American imports.
The US appears to be more interested in the latter option — as the Trump administration is seeking to fix America's trade imbalances by promoting US exports rather than by disrupting international trade.