Japan is scrambling to respond to intensifying trade pressure from President Donald Trump
Prime Minister Abe will visit Washington February 10 for talks with President Trump at which the US leader is expected to seek quick progress toward a two-way trade deal with Japan and discuss the car sector.
Ahead of those talks, Prime Minister Abe will meet Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda, two sources said. One of them said the meeting would take place on Friday.
In a phone call with Prime Minister Abe on Saturday, President Trump reiterated his pledge to create jobs in the United States and asked that the Japanese auto industry contribute, the Nikkei business daily reported, quoting unidentified Japanese government officials.
The two leaders discussed the automotive industry, senior government spokesman Koichi Hagiuda told reporters after the phone call, without giving details. A White House statement said the two “committed to deepen the bilateral trade and investment relationship.”
Prime Minister Abe has left open the door to discussing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States but some officials worry Japan would have little to gain while coming under intense pressure from Washington. Bilateral talks on specific sectors such as autos, however, are an option, officials have said.
Japanese Prime Minister Abe
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President Trump, who last week dropped out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pushed by his predecessor Barack Obama and favoured by Prime Minister Abe, has repeatedly attacked Japan's car market as closed in an echo of criticism heard twenty years ago.
Japan has rejected that criticism, saying it does not impose tariffs on U.S. auto imports nor put up discriminatory non-tariff barriers.
President Trump reiterated his pledge to create jobs in the United States
Over the decades, Japanese automakers have developed SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks specifically targeting American consumers' taste for bigger cars, while US brands have struggled to make inroads in Japan, where drivers overwhelmingly prefer domestic brands.
Foreign-branded cars accounted for only 7 percent of the passenger car market, led by Germany. American brands collectively made up less than a third of 1 percent of passenger cars sold in Japan last year.