President Donald Trump discussed the future of U.S.-Japanese relations with the prime minister of Japan over the phone Saturday.
The two leaders acknowledged the significance of the U.S.-Japanese bilateral relationship going forward. “We confirmed with each other the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance for areas such as the economy and national security,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said told reporters after his phone call with Trump.
Trump invited the prime minister to visit the White House on Feb. 10. “I hope to have a frank, meaningful exchange of opinions with him on a broad range of issues from the economy to security,” Abe said.
Saturday’s phone call follows Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive free trade agreement encompassing 12 countries. The Japanese prime minister was a strong supporter of the Pacific trade pact, which was intended to serve as an essential cornerstone for his economic policies.
Abe views U.S. participation as vital to the TPP’s success. “The fundamental balance of interests is lost without the U.S.,” Koichi Hagiuda, deputy chief cabinet secretary, said during a press conference following Trump’s decision.
“We want to continue persuading the U.S. of the strategic and economic benefits,” Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters.
While Japan hopes to convince Trump of the merits of the TPP, it has agreed to consider negotiating new bilateral trade agreements, which Trump prefers to vast multilateral deals.
Although defense is a crucial component of the U.S.-Japanese relationship, economics and trade will play a role in setting the tone for future interactions.
On the campaign trail, Trump presented Japan as a competitor. Trump has criticized Japan for restricting access to Japanese markets through unfair tariffs on American auto exports. Japanese officials maintain that such accusations are unfounded, claiming that there are no barriers to trade. Trump has also argued that Japan does not contribute enough funding for the defense commitments provided by the American military.
Nonetheless, exchanges between Trump and Japan have been cordial.
The Japanese prime minister was the first world leader to meet Trump after his victory in the 2016 presidential election.
“[I am] convinced that Mr. Trump is a leader in whom I can have confidence,” Abe told reporters after their meeting, adding that he hoped to “maintain a relationship of trust” with the new administration.
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