All Tuesday evening papers wrote that when speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, President Trump reportedly commented on his recent summit meeting with Prime Minister Abe, during which the two officials agreed to launch bilateral tariff negotiations. According to the papers, the President noted that he told Abe that the U.S. will impose hefty tariffs on autos if Japan doesn’t negotiate and that Japan responded by agreeing to start negotiations immediately. Nikkei quoted the President as saying that the premier told him that many Japanese automakers have invested in the U.S. over the last year and a half and that they will expand their investment in the future. Yomiuri wrote that the President reportedly cited his administration’s recent trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, and South Korea and said that the U.S. would not have succeeded in the negotiations on these agreements without referring to auto tariffs. Asahi speculated that although the U.S. agreed in the latest U.S.-Japan summit not to impose higher tariffs on Japanese cars while tariff negotiations are underway, Washington may bring up the issue again depending on how the talks go.
Today’s dailies carried follow-up reports, saying that Tokyo is bracing for the possibility of the Trump administration stepping up the pressure on Japan to further open up its market to U.S. products in the planned so-called “TAG” trade talks. The dailies highlighted remarks by USTR Lighthizer, who said that the USMCA will serve as a “template” for future trade agreements under the Trump administration and that it is a “paradigm-shifting model.” Asahi asserted that the Trump administration will not back down in protecting U.S. domestic industries, while Nikkei projected that USTR Lighthizer is likely to demand Japan adopt “quantitative restrictions” on U.S.-bound autos. The business daily also quoted an unnamed senior White House official as saying that the “issue of currency will be discussed” with Japan. Mainichi wrote that the Abe administration is alarmed by Washington’s attempts to “manage trade,” expressing the view that Tokyo may come under pressure to adopt a currency provision similar to the one agreed upon in the USMCA deal.