Abe, Trump Agree To Discuss 2 - Way Trade Framework After U.s. Tpp Exit

Abe, Trump agree to discuss 2-way trade framework after U.S. TPP exitJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed Friday to discuss a bilateral trade framework in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"We will seek a trading relationship that is free, fair and reciprocal, benefiting both of our countries," Trump told a joint press conference after the meeting at the White House. Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will helm a new Japan-U.S. economic dialogue group.

Abe and Trump also affirmed their resolve to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. defense alliance, echoing reassurances made by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis when he visited Japan last week.

While Japanese officials said Trump did not explicitly ask Abe to start negotiating a bilateral free trade deal, he has repeatedly advocated a country-to-country approach.

Trump has taken issue with the size of the U.S. trade deficit with Japan and called for the Japanese market to be more open to U.S. automakers, indicating his administration may drive a hard bargain in forthcoming negotiations.

Even after Trump pulled the United States last month out of the 12-party TPP championed by his predecessor Barack Obama, saying the pact would hurt American jobs, Abe has continued to hail the strategic benefits of the deal, which notably excludes China from its signatories.

Japan will continue to "advance regional progress on the basis of existing initiatives," the joint statement said.

The TPP, in its current form, can only take effect if it is ratified by at least six members that represent 85 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the 12 members. Without U.S. ratification, the agreement would effectively be dead because the United States alone accounts for 60 percent of the group's total GDP.

"The president and I confirmed our strong resolve that we will create free and fair markets, based on rules, in the Asia-Pacific region," Abe said at the press conference.

Abe appeared to caution against allowing China to dominate regional trade standards, saying fair trade means protecting intellectual property and not allowing state-owned enterprises to intervene in the economy using state capital.

Friday's summit came amid uncertainty about how Trump's "America First" agenda could affect Japan, which counts the United States as its top export destination and defense ally.

The leaders agreed to foster economic cooperation through the dialogue between Aso, who doubles as finance minister, and Pence. The pair held a separate meeting in Washington on Friday morning.

On the bilateral security front, Trump's remarks on the campaign trail last year had raised concerns that his administration might reduce its commitment to defending Japan unless the island ally coughed up more of the costs of stationing U.S. troops there.

Trump thanked the people of Japan for hosting the U.S. military and mirrored the language of the Abe administration in calling the bilateral alliance "the cornerstone of peace and stability" in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to the joint statement, the leaders agreed that the United States will strengthen its presence in the region and Japan will "assume larger roles and responsibilities in the alliance."

Abe and Trump agreed that the planned relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps base within Okinawa is the "only solution" to the dangers of keeping the base at its current site without inhibiting its deterrent capacity, Japanese officials said.

The plan to move Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area to reclaimed land at the coastal Henoko site has met with fierce local opposition.

In a continuation of a commitment made by Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, the leaders confirmed that the protections of the countries' bilateral security treaty extend to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The treaty obliges the United States to "act to meet the common danger" if Japan comes under armed attack.

The uninhabited islets are administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan. In the statement, the leaders said they "oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan's administration of these islands."

Abe and Trump affirmed the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight in the East China Sea and called for the avoidance of actions that would escalate tensions in the South China Sea, where China has been assertive in pressing claims to disputed territory.

According to Japanese officials, Trump told Abe about his telephone call Thursday night with Chinese President Xi Jinping -- their first conversation since Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20 -- but did not go into detail about the content of the call.

The leaders also strongly urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Also Friday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, after the two held a telephone conversation on Tuesday.

After their summit and working lunch in Washington, Abe and Trump flew together in Air Force One to Palm Beach, Florida, to talk further over golf at Trump's Mar-a-Lago vacation estate.

According to the joint statement, Abe invited Trump to make an official visit to Japan before the end of the year.

"We have a very, very good bond -- very, very good chemistry," Trump said at the press conference of his personal relationship with Abe. "I'll let you know if it changes, but I don't think it will."

Asked by a U.S. reporter about Trump's polarizing executive order on immigration and refugees, Abe said immigration policy is "a domestic matter" and that he would not comment on it further.

Abe and Trump held an unofficial meeting in New York in November, shortly after Trump's presidential election victory.

Abe is scheduled to return to Japan on Monday evening.