(ANTIMEDIA) Tokyo — With speculation high about a coming trade war — or possibly even a cold war — with so-called enemy China, the New York Times on Wednesday reminded its readers that President Donald Trump’s removal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has great implications for America’s allies, as well.
“What comes next, many in Japan believe,” the Times writes, “could be a bruising showdown between Tokyo and Washington. They fear a return to the trade wars of the 1980s and early ‘90s, when many Americans saw Japan as an untrustworthy economic adversary.”
Trump, who on Monday made good on his promise to pull the U.S. out of the TPP deal immediately upon entering the White House, has stated he finds the trade imbalance between Japan and the U.S to be unfair because Japan sells far more goods to the U.S. than it buys in return. The president reiterated this sentiment, which is a foundational element of his overall “America First” policy, on Tuesday, before a group of American auto executives in Detroit.
“It’s the long-terms jobs we are looking for,” President Trump said at a televised meeting with executives from GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler. Ahead of the meeting, the U.S. leader had once again demonstrated, via tweet, his desire to strengthen the American workforce at home:
“I want new plants to be built here for cars sold here.”
President Trump has stated he wishes to pursue individual trade deals with nations, rather than group agreements like the TPP. This is unfortunate news for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, as the Times notes, had hopes of “drawing the United States closer to Japan and other friendly Pacific Rim countries” through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Japan has traditionally preferred multilateral agreements to one-on-one deals of the sort the new American president is insisting upon, the Times explains, but Abe’s strong desire to keep the U.S. engaged in the region may leave him no choice but to play along.
“Japan may eventually agree to bilaterals with the U.S. to ensure that the U.S. stays engaged in Asia,” said former U.S. trade official Glen. S. Fukushima — now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Highlighting what a delicate dance Japan will have to play in the coming days if it intends to safeguard trade relations with the United States, the chairman of the lobbying group for Japan’s largest corporations says Prime Minister Abe should deal directly with Trump for the time being, with an overarching “goal of eventually broadening negotiations to a multilateral level.”
This appeasement by Abe, however — even if it is only to eventually work Trump into a softer position down the road — is what many locals in Japan are concerned about. As a rice farmer, interviewed by the Times, explains:
“It’s actually a lot scarier, because what comes next will be a lot harsher. We have to sell cars to the U.S., and farmers will be traded away for access.”
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