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Editorial: Abe must carefully gauge position in relation to U.S. president

Japan should reject unreasonable demands from President Trump regardless of the Japan-U.S. alliance. The high-handed style of the President will not last. Prime Minister Abe, who will visit the U.S. on Feb. 10, needs to gauge his stance carefully in dealing with him.

 

It is tempting to quip that the economic cooperation package that Abe plans to offer Trump as a “souvenir” seems almost like an insult to the U.S.

 

One of the items in the package entails investing 150 billion dollar (16.8 trillion yen) investment in U.S. infrastructure to create a total of 700,000 jobs. Doesn’t that sound like one of the economic assistance proposals that would be offered to a developing country?

 

The U.S. economy is solid. The period of economic expansion has entered its eighth year, and the unemployment rate is at 4.8%, close to full employment. A nation that has been struggling with deflation for 20 years and has the the highest debt in the world is offering support to a nation that is experiencing sound economic growth, which also happens to be the number one economy in the world. Something is wrong with this picture.

 

If Japan’s economic support were being provided to actual developing countries suffering from poverty for the purpose of improving people’s lives, Japanese people would understand. Economic support for the U.S. will not make sense to Japanese taxpayers.

 

Ford Motor Company has given up on the idea of building a factory in Mexico. Toyota Motor plans to invest in its existing U.S. factories to create 400 additional American jobs.

 

The storyline of the ongoing “Trump show” is simple: Countries and corporations offer tributes to a powerful bully that threatens them. Abe’s visit may be viewed and criticized as a “tributary diplomacy.”

 

We can understand that the instability of the international order caused by Trump’s America First policy has led the prime minister to seek reassurances from the President on the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

 

Nevertheless, we must ask whether it is really a good idea to pay a visit to Trump almost immediately after he took office. The new U.S. leader is someone who changes his stance frequently, as his policies are based on misinterpreted facts and his actions are improvised on the spot. The views expressed by his cabinet members often run counter to his own. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until the new administration’s policy direction becomes clearer?

 

First of all, Abe should explain the basic principles of free trade and international cooperation to President Trump while at the same time making sure that the President understands the real picture of Japanese auto trade and dollar-yen exchange rates.

 

Arrangements are being made for Abe to play golf with Trump. But think about the implications of Abe playing golf with Trump in the eyes of the rest of the world. There will certainly be some negative reactions.

 

The U.S. is not an authoritarian state, so the administration will not be able to employ its heavy-handed leadership forever. Such behavior will be put to a stop sooner or later.

 

Abe will need to strike a careful balance as he establishes his position vis-a-vis President Trump.

 

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