Trump risks divisive argument over trade HOURS after landing in Japan and says he will push for ‘more fair‘ deal as he pointedly reminds Tokyo to buy more U.S. military equipment with ‘everything that‘s going on‘
dove right into a disagreement over trade with on Saturday, telling business leaders in Tokyo minutes after he landed that he wants the nation to remove barriers inhibiting the sale of American goods.
He also wants Japan to purchase more of the United States‘ defense products, he said.
In off-the-cuff remarks at a dinner attended by executives of prominent Japanese companies like Toyota and Softbank, he said, ‘Japan has had a substantial edge for many many years.
‘That‘s OK. Maybe that‘s why you like us so much. But we‘ll get it a little bit more fair, I think. I think we‘ll do that,‘ he stated.
He said Japan can reduce the imbalance by purchasing additional jets, missiles and rockets from the United States – and suggested the military equipment could come in handy soon.
‘We also have a tremendous relationship on the military, and Japan is ordering a great deal of military equipment. We make the best equipment in the world,‘ he claimed. ‘And so, Japan is doing very large orders, and we appreciate that. And we think it‘s probably appropriate right now, with everything that‘s going on. The world is changing.‘
He did not explain which potential threats he was referring to before he moved on.
Trump told Japanese companies that the time to inject resources in the U.S. is now, citing strong economic growth and low unemployment for minority groups, including Asian-Americans, in his Saturday evening pitch.
‘I hope many of you in the room will also significantly increase your investments in the United States. There‘s no better place to invest,‘ he said. ‘So there‘s never been a better time to invest and do business in the United States.‘
He added, ‘We have some interesting trade deals going on – I sure you haven‘t read too much about them – with China and some others, but it seems to be working along actually quite well.‘
Trump claimed that GDP increased by 3 percent last year, rounding up from the 2.9 percent growth the Department of Commerce reported, and claimed it would have been higher,‘ if the Federal Reserve hadn‘t intervened.
‘If the Fed didn‘t raise interest rates, frankly, it would have been much higher than 3 percent. And the stock market, as high as it‘s been, would have been at least, probably, anywhere from seven to 10,000 points higher. But they wanted to raise interest rates. You explain that to me,‘ he complained.
Trump also mused about driverless cars, noting that both SoftBank and Toyota had invested in Uber‘s initiative.
‘And I guess self-driving cars are becoming a bigger and bigger thing. What do you think? Yes? That‘s the future. And if you say that‘s the future, I‘m OK with it,‘ he stated. ‘It seems very strange when you look over and there‘s nobody behind the car going 60 mph, but when you say it, I‘m good with it.‘
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The U.S. president is visiting Tokyo for four days on the heels of Emperor Naruhito‘s installation as Japan‘s new monarch.
He arrived with first lady Melania Trump on Saturday evening for the official, state visit that will make them the first foreign guests of the emperor and empress.
‘We just spent many, many hours on the plane,‘ he told a room of roughly 30 business leaders. ‘And here we are. We just walked off the plane.‘
They traveled for 16 hours to get to Tokyo to meet the imperial family and attend the final round of a sumo tournament, where the U.S. president will award the victor a 54-inch cup that weighs more than 60 pounds.
Trump will also hold limited, bilateral meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shnizo Abe during the visit that coincides with a three-day weekend in the U.S.
It is the first of two visits to Japan that Trump will make over the course of the next month.
‘We really have strengthened the enduring alliance between the United States and Japan. It‘s very special, with Prime Minister Abe, it‘s very special,‘ he observed Saturday at his dinner.
He said, ‘The first lady and I are thrilled to be with you as we celebrate Japan‘s Reiwa era. Very special time, and affirm the close economic ties between our two nations.‘
Trump noted that his trade lead, Robert Lighthizer, was joining him on the trip.
He said the U.S. trade representative has ‘been very busy, negotiating deals and doing a fantastic job,‘ including on the agreement he envisions with Japan.
‘As you know, the United States and Japan are hard at work negotiating a bilateral trade agreement, which will benefit both of our countries,‘ he asserted. ‘With this deal, we hope to address the trade imbalance, remove barriers to United States exports and ensure reciprocity.‘
Trump said the countries are ‘getting closer‘ to arriving at an agreement.
‘We hope to have several further announcement soon, and some very big ones over the next few months,‘ he said.
A U.S. official told reporters before the trip that a trade discussion was not on the menu, but Trump indicated plans to pursue the topic on Saturday night.
‘And we‘re also here, as you know, for a very special occasion, not having to do with trade, we all know about that,‘ he said of the face time he‘ll have with the emperor on Monday.
Trump is anticipated to talk about security and the ‘importance of the alliance in deterring aggression in the region‘ on Memorial Day, the person said, in what appeared to be a reference to Pyongyang‘s recent missile test.
Abe has invited Trump to inspect the JS Kaga, the country‘s second-largest warship. It is currently a helicopter carrier but it is to be equipped with F-35B strike fighters.
The Kaga‘s namesake was sunk in the Battle of Midway in 1942.
Japan is investing heavily in its self-defense forces over fears of Chinese and North Korean incursions.
The country‘s constitution forbids it from re-militarizing but allows self-defense forces, and Abe‘s administration has stepped up defense spending.