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Schism remains over trade even after summit

All national dailies reported on the economic takeaways from the Trump-Abe summit, saying that President Trump is apparently determined to press Japan to open its market to American farmers and producers. As for the President’s announcement on a possible trade deal in August, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (DCCS) Nishimura, who sat in on the bilateral session, reportedly told the press last night that there was no agreement to reach a deal according to such a timeframe.  Asahi wrote that from the Japanese viewpoint, bilateral trade negotiations are not close to reaching an accord in the summer. Speculating that President Trump is desperate for a swift accord on agricultural trade with his reelection bid in mind, the daily quoted an unnamed senior GOJ official as saying with regard to the two leaders’ planned summit on the margins of the G20 confab in Osaka next month: “Although it is meant to showcase the bilateral political honeymoon, the President may capitalize on it to step up trade pressure.” 


While quoting the President as saying in the post-summit press conference, “I have nothing to do with TPP…. I’m not bound by anything that anybody else signs with respect to the United States,” the papers speculated that his remarks showed that Washington is poised to urge Japan to present a deal that offers U.S. farmers and ranchers benefits beyond those under the TPP and the Japan-EU EPA. Concerning this remark of the President’s, DCCS Nishimura stressed that a bilateral trade accord will be built upon the Joint Statement that the two leaders released last September which reads in part: “For Japan, with regard to agricultural, forestry, and fishery products, outcomes related to market access as reflected in Japan’s previous economic partnership agreements constitute the maximum level.”


Mainichi said that as the Trump administration still retains the option of imposing high tariffs on Japanese car imports, the U.S. leader may hint at their imposition in a bid to elicit Japanese concessions. The papers said that as the President is now willing to wait for a trade deal until after the July elections, PM Abe “owes the President one,” adding that Tokyo may be put into tighter corner as a result.  


Yomiuri added that Japan is closely monitoring U.S.-China trade negotiations, bracing for President Trump’s potentially stepping up pressure on Tokyo to produce quick deliverables in the event of a breakdown of the Sino-U.S. trade talks. The GOJ is also concerned that the Japanese economy would be hit hard if Washington goes ahead with the planned fourth round of high tariffs on Chinese imports, the paper said.  

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