All weekend papers reported extensively on what they referred to as President Trump’s apparent intention to focus on Japan in addressing the chronic U.S. trade deficit, highlighting a recent Wall Street Journal column claiming that he plans to take a tough approach toward Japan and his press remarks aboard Air Force One on Friday saying that the U.S. and Japan have begun discussions over trade and that Tokyo “knows it’s a big problem” if an agreement cannot be reached. Reporting on President Trump’s separate comment that Japan would not deal with the Obama administration on trade since it “felt there was going to be no retribution,” the dailies interpreted this to mean that the President will probably use the idea of auto tariffs as negotiating leverage to push Japan to further open up its market to American farm products and autos, with national papers Asahi and Nikkei characterizing the President’s latest strong language as a “threat.”
The papers conjectured that the U.S. leader might be now inclined to take a tougher approach toward Japan perhaps to deflect attention from what they characterized as various domestic political controversies given that his administration has now successfully negotiated trade deals with the EU and Mexico and is applying greater pressure on China. Nikkei speculated that the U.S. may insist on the adoption of a currency clause in possible bilateral trade talks with Japan, projecting that if such a provision is adopted, it will pose a major risk to the Japanese economy.
Mainichi asserted that President Trump is applying greater pressure on Japan at a time when American farmers are suffering from retaliatory tariffs imposed on American products by the Chinese. The paper claimed that some American farmers are calling for Japan to increase its U.S. imports since their products are being put in a disadvantageous position in the Chinese market due to the retaliatory tariffs.