Abe has specific goals for meeting with Trump

By Zhao Huanxin in Washington and Zhang Yunbi in Beijing | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-02-10 12:56

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going into his summit with US President Donald Trump with a plan.

When they meet on Friday in Washington, Abe will bring with him a proposal called the "Japan-US growth and employment initiative".

Abe, who was the first world leader to meet Trump after Trump was elected, will lay out cooperation in infrastructure, robots and other fields that would generate jobs and create new US markets, according to Japanese media reports.

But the visit has more political significance than economic implications, as both sides will seek to strengthen the Japan-US alliance, according to Zhang Jifeng, director of the Japanese economy department at the Institute of Japan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Economically, Zhang said Trump will push to redress the trade imbalance, but it is not realistic for Abe to make big concessions, as Abe needs to ensure a firm political foundation at home for him to stay longer in his post.

Japan logged a roughly $60 billion annual trade surplus with the US. Its largest exporter, the auto industry, has been singled out by Trump in his criticism. Meanwhile, Japan is on guard against US agricultural exports, according to Zhang.

Su Xiaohui, a researcher on international strategy at the China Institute of International Studies, said she believed what Abe wants most is to build closer personal ties to facilitate further communications.

Last weekend, US Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed that the Diaoyu Islands, an inherent part of the Chinese territory, fell under Article 5 of the US-Japan security treaty, a statement sparking criticism from China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry said the so-called US-Japan treaty was a product of the Cold War, and should not impair China's territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights.

Brad Glosserman, a Japan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Pacific Forum in Hawaii, said Abe would want affirmation from the president of the solidity of the US commitment.

That will give Trump the leverage to prompt more trade and economic concessions from Abe, according to Yang Bojiang, deputy director of the Institute of Japan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Abe will give an omiyage (gift) of substantial Japanese investment projects in the US. That will allow the president to claim he is creating jobs and fixing an unfair trade relationship," Glosserman said.

"Early success (in) negotiating with Japan could embolden the Trump administration to engage in talks with China at a later time," said Simon Lester, a trade policy analyst with Cato's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies. "They may feel that a successful Japan-US trade agreement gives them more leverage over China."

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