All Monday evening papers reported that the United States and Canada reached an agreement on Sunday to form a new trilateral accord called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace NAFTA. Nikkei wrote that the new trilateral deal may help to ease the Japanese automakers’ concerns about the investment environment in North America. Asahi speculated that the USMCA, which includes a review of auto trade in North America, will likely affect Japanese automakers’ investment plans.
Today’s dailies carried follow-up stories, explaining that President Trump won major concessions from Canada and Mexico by using auto tariffs as negotiating leverage. They projected that the Trump administration, buoyed by the President’s trade negotiating strategy, is bound to step up pressure on Japan, with Asahi quoting an unnamed senior USG official as saying that the negotiations on the USMCA will become a “prototype” for future trade talks. Pointing out that Canada was forced to accept “quantitative restrictions” on its auto exports to the U.S. market, the dailies conjectured that in the planned talks on a “trade agreement on goods” (TAG) Washington may call for Japan to adopt the same approach to bilateral auto trade. Nikkei and Yomiuri claimed that the new North American trade deal smacks of “managed trade,” with the latter asserting that it renders WTO rules irrelevant.