Security, trade top Abe's agenda for United States summit

To this end, one of the key announcements Abe will reportedly make in Washington concerns a multibillion-dollar package of Japanese investment measures that - playing to Trump's "America First" narrative - will create potentially thousands of new jobs in the US. Trump has criticized the lack of access to the Japanese auto market for USA producers and has accused Tokyo of using monetary policy to devalue its currency.

The Japan engagement and China outreach will be closely watched by world capitals for Trump's style and substance after a stormy start to his White House term that included scolding the leaders of Mexico and Australia during telephone calls, and an uneventful hosting of British Prime Minister Theresa May in his first week as President.

Pursuit of a possible new, direct trade compact between the two countries is also expected to be discussed when the two leaders golf together Saturday at the president's resort in Palm Beach, Florida. We're going to have a round of golf, which is a great thing. The visit comes after Abe and his top lieutenants last week pushed back against Trump's assertion that Japan is purposely undervaluing its currency. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday Trump will pay for Abe's accommodations himself.

"After all, the US can hardly risk alienating Japan when its focus is shifting to containing China and containing geopolitical risk in Asia", Wizman said. But the Trump administration is unlike US administrations of the past. On the campaign trail Trump railed against currency manipulation, and on entering office he withdrew the US from a pending multilateral Pacific Rim trade deal, saying it - like many other USA trade deals in his estimation - had been bad for American business.

After becoming president, Trump signed documents to step aside from leadership roles in his companies, turning over control to his sons. Trump said last August.

In the meantime, Abe arrives in Washington with a proposal for Japanese companies to invest $150 billion in USA infrastructure, including high-speed rail, potentially creating 700,000 jobs in the United States. In fiscal year 2016, Japanese consumers purchased $1.4 billion of US beef products and $1.5 billion of USA pork products. While Japan's economy still relies heavily on exports for growth, its officials are eager to alter lingering perceptions that the trade advantage is skewed to Japan, a view based on trade wars fought with the USA decades ago.

The two countries are also planning to form a new bilateral framework headed by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence that would facilitate discussions on trade and infrastructure projects in an apparent move to appease a cantankerous Trump. Japanese public investment agencies also complained that Abe is expecting them to spend hundreds of billions of yen to build the USA high-speed railway.

This comes after the Japanese viewed the Trump administration's abandonment of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership as a severe setback for global trade growth.

At the same time, Abe also needs to be aware of the potential backlash of appearing to be friendly with the US president, who has triggered worldwide protest with his executive order that temporarily suspends admittance of Syrian refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

  • Ernesto Newman