Nikkei wrote that despite what the paper characterized as President Trump’s escalated rhetoric critical of the bilateral trade imbalance, the Abe administration appears to be attempting to treat U.S. pressure with benign neglect in the run-up to the LDP presidential race on Sept. 20 because LDP voters in farming communities are expected to play a key role in determining the fate of Prime Minister Abe’s reelection bid. The daily explained that local farmers were displeased when the premier promoted the TPP initiative despite their strong opposition. A source involved in the U.S.-Japan “free, fair, and reciprocal” (FFR) trade talks was quoted as saying that President Trump has decided to “target Japan.”
The article conjectured that only President Trump will be able to decide on the terms and conditions of any trade agreement with Tokyo. The business daily also asserted that only Prime Minister Abe will be able to defuse what it referred to as the trade dispute with the Trump administration by capitalizing on his close personal bond with the U.S. leader, adding that an idea has emerged within the GOJ for Abe to play golf with the President to affirm mutual ties when the premier visits the U.S. later this month and holds a bilateral summit with him on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting.
Sankei published a similar story. While noting that Japan probably will not be able to make concessions on agricultural trade ahead of the Upper House election scheduled for next summer, the daily expressed the view that it remains to be seen whether President Trump will tone down his criticism of Japan even if the Abe administration agrees to increase imports of American defense hardware and/or natural gas as a concession.