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Abe holds “constructive discussions” with President Trump on trade, DPRK

All national dailies reported on a dinner that President Trump hosted for Prime Minister Abe at Trump Tower in New York during which they apparently discussed North Korea and the bilateral trade imbalance. The premier was quoted as telling the press afterward: “We were able to exchange opinions in a candid, in-depth manner not only on U.S.-Japan relations but also on a range of issues concerning the international community…. We held constructive discussions.” According to the papers, during the 150-minute one-on-one meeting President Trump called for Japan to take concrete steps to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with it.


While noting that the U.S. leader rolled out the red carpet for the prime minister by inviting him to his private residence with the aim of demonstrating their “extraordinarily close bond,” Yomiuri opined that the U.S. leader may have stepped up the pressure on Abe to make concessions on trade since he needs to score a trade win to buoy up Republican candidates ahead of the November midterm elections. The daily projected that President Trump will firmly reiterate his trade demands during their planned summit on Wednesday, quoting a Washington-based diplomatic source as saying: “Because Prime Minister Abe has just been reelected, the President might say to him: ‘Shinzo, make concessions for me because our elections are right around the corner.’” Mainichi wrote that although Abe was not planning to take up trade issues during the dinner meeting because they will be discussed extensively at Wednesday’s summit, President Trump addressed them anyway to show that he is determined to rectify the bilateral trade imbalance. 


Nikkei projected that the issue of U.S. auto tariffs will be high on the agenda in Tuesday’s “free, fair, and reciprocal” (FFR) trade talks between USTR Lighthizer and Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Motegi and Wednesday’s summit between President Trump and PM Abe. The business daily conjectured that the Japanese side may agree to start talks on import tariffs on agricultural and other American products if the Trump administration promises not to level additional tariffs on Japanese auto imports. The paper added if a deal is reached in the FFR talks on autos and beef and other U.S. agricultural products, a joint statement on such an accord may be issued upon the conclusion of the Abe-Trump meeting.


Since this was the first direct meeting between President Trump and PM Abe following the landmark U.S-DPRK summit in Singapore in June, the President reportedly briefed the prime minister on his meeting with Chairman Kim. In response, the premier conveyed to the President the desire of the abduction victims’ families to reach an early resolution of the issue. Abe told the press at the end of the meeting: “We agreed to amplify the momentum [for denuclearization] that was generated by the Singapore summit.” Sankei said Abe had declined the President’s invitation to play golf together so as to take part in a Tokyo rally on the abduction issue ahead of his departure for New York, conjecturing that the premier’s foremost goal for the dinner meeting was to remind the U.S. leader of the importance of maintaining strong pressure on Pyongyang in the absence of concrete progress on denuclearization. The paper wrote that since President Trump was scheduled to hold a summit with ROK President on the next day, Abe may have cautioned him against readily issuing a declaration on the end of the Korean War or holding a summit with Chairman Kim this year.     

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