Morning Alert   -   Friday, September 27, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on yesterday's Congressional hearing on the allegation that President Trump pressured the Ukraine leader to investigate the son of former Vice President Biden. TV Asahi and NTV filed follow-up reports on disruption of service at Itami Airport in Osaka yesterday because a man passed through security with a knife-like object in his carry-on baggage. TBS reported on the continuing search for a girl who went missing from a campsite in Yamanashi Prefecture on Sept. 21. Fuji TV showed security camera video of a man stealing license plates from cars at a parking lot in Matsubara, Osaka, on Sept. 25.

Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei gave top play to the new U.S.-Japan trade agreement. Mainichi led with a report alleging that six Kansai Electric executives received payoffs of a total of 180 million yen ($1.66 million) over the course of seven years until 2017 from a former official of Takahama Town, Fukui Prefecture, where the utility has a nuclear power plant. Asahi gave top coverage to a report on the announcement by Minister of Culture Hagiuda that the government will not make a planned grant of 78 million yen ($724,000) to the Aichi Triennale 2019, an art festival including a controversial exhibit of a statue symbolizing the comfort women. Hagiuda said the festival will not receive the state subsidy due to procedural errors.


U.S., Japan reach new trade agreement

All national dailies ran on their front and inside pages detailed reports on the new bilateral trade agreement reached between the United States and Japan. The papers said that the auto industry was relieved there will be no additional tariffs on Japanese cars and that Japanese farm lobbies responded positively to the trade deal. Asahi speculated that the opposition parties are set to grill the GOJ in the upcoming Diet session for concluding what they characterize as an "unfair trade deal." The paper further speculated that Japan will be urged to make other concessions in the next stage of trade negotiations focusing on goods and services.

The papers also wrote that retailers and restaurant chains welcomed the new trade agreement, which reduces tariffs on beef, pork, wine, and other products, with the hope that increased imports of these American products will help boost business by stimulating consumption. Mainichi wrote that although Japan was forced to make concessions, the agreement benefits Japanese consumers by offering American beef and other products at lower prices.

Nikkei wrote that the Trump administration succeeded in securing reduced levies on American beef and pork ahead of the presidential election next year. The paper added, though, that although Prime Minister Abe called the agreement a "win-win deal," many outstanding issues, including auto tariffs, have been carried over for future negotiations.

Editorials on U.S.-Japan trade agreement

All national dailies carried editorials on the new U.S.-Japan trade agreement.

Yomiuri contended: "It is significant that the United States and Japan, which account for 30% of global GDP, will create a framework for promoting free trade.... We welcome the two nations' efforts to find realistic points of common ground.... The agreement is probably the second best choice because although the deal is meaningful, it runs counter to the spirit of expanding fair and free trade rules multilaterally.... The United States should eliminate its auto tariffs in return to Japan's concessions on farm trade."

Nikkei wrote: "Although liberalization of trade of farm and industrial products will likely move forward to some extent, the agreement does not seem to offer an example for major nations. We hope that the United States and Japan will continue their negotiations to achieve a more comprehensive agreement with a high-level of liberalization."

Asahi asserted: "It is hard to accept Prime Minister Abe's explanation that the agreement is a win-win deal.... It remains to be seen whether President Trump will actually move forward with the elimination of tariffs on auto imports, which constitutes a large portion of the U.S. trade deficit with Japan."

Mainichi wrote: "Although Prime Minister Abe stressed that the deal is a win-win that will benefit both countries, the contents of the accord are far from such.... The Japanese government accepted the U.S. demands because President Trump hinted at the possibility of additional high tariffs on Japanese auto imports."

Sankei wrote: "It is significant that the United States and Japan did not exacerbate their differences over trade when the global economy is in confusion over the U.S.-China trade friction.... There is no guarantee that President Trump will proactively agree to discuss auto tariffs, but it is necessary for Japan to strongly call for talks."

Toyota president welcomes new trade agreement with U.S.

Thursday evening's Nikkei wrote that during a press conference on Thursday, Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp. and head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, commented on the new bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Japan. The paper quoted Toyoda as saying that he welcomes the agreement because the environment for free and fair trade in the auto sector will be maintained and reinforced.


U.S. allegedly concerned about Japan-ROK relations

Claiming that President Trump referred to Japan's relations with South Korea during his bilateral talks with Prime Minister Abe in New York on Wednesday, Asahi asserted that the United States is becoming increasingly concerned about the frayed ties between Tokyo and Seoul. The paper wrote that the President referred to Japan-ROK relations out of concern that any further deterioration of ties between the two U.S. allies could undermine trilateral security cooperation. The paper claimed that concern is deepening within the USG that China, Russia, and the DPRK are exploiting tensions between Tokyo and Seoul.

Meanwhile, Fuji TV cited a Japanese government source as saying that President Trump, during his summit meeting with Prime Minister Abe, allegedly criticized ROK President Moon. The President reportedly said the ROK leader is not trusted or respected by North Korea and that Kim Jong Un no longer calls him. He reportedly made the above remark when Abe explained Japan's decision to remove the ROK from the "white list" of preferred trade partners and the requisitioned workers issue.

FM Motegi holds first meeting with ROK counterpart

NHK reported this morning that Foreign Minister Motegi held his first meeting with ROK Foreign Minister Kang in New York yesterday but the two diplomats simply reiterated their positions and failed to reach an agreement. Motegi demanded that the ROK should rectify its violation of international law in its handling of the wartime workers issue, while Kang said that her government will respect the judiciary's ruling on this matter. They also exchanged views on Japan's tighter control on exports to the ROK and the ROK's unilateral scrapping of its GSOMIA with Japan. They reportedly agreed to continue communication on the requisitioned workers issue through diplomatic channels and affirmed the importance of building a future-oriented bilateral relationship and cooperation in dealing with North Korea issues. According to the Foreign Ministry, during part of the meeting the two ministers spoke with only their interpreters present.

Foreign ministers from U.S., Japan, Australia, and India discuss Indo-Pacific vision

Yomiuri wrote that foreign ministers from the United States, Japan, Australia, and India held talks in New York on Thursday, noting that this was the first time for the four nations to discuss the vision of "a free and open Indo-Pacific" at the ministerial level. Mainichi ran a similar Kyodo story saying the ministers confirmed that their nations will promote the development of high-quality infrastructure in the region.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team