Trump has mentioned Japan several times as a country that he views as taking advantage of the US on trade deals. With the Mexico talks wrapped up and the EU talks going his way, Trump is now looking to apply US economic pressure to the Japanese as well to get bilateral trade talks going:
When Japan agreed to enter into bilateral trade talks with the United States during meetings at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, the country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, appeared to have finally said “yes” after two years of saying “no.”
Japan has consistently insisted it was not interested in entering into bilateral trade negotiations with the United States. Instead, it has repeatedly invited the United States to re-enter a broad trade pact among 11 countries from which President Trump withdrew during his first week in office.
Japan appeared at first blush to have acquiesced to American pressure and the threat of tariffs on imported cars by agreeing to start two-way negotiations to “promote Japan-U.S. trade.”
Japan was “chased into a corner,” wrote Taketsugu Sato, national security correspondent for The Asahi Shimbun, a left-leaning Japanese newspaper. The Nikkan Gendai, a daily tabloid, went further, calling Mr. Abe a “traitor.”
Analysts said that American officials might wish to use the talks with Japan to score a small but quick win.
“This seems more about ‘Let’s get some sort of deal and see what we can get out of Japan in a pretty quick turnaround and then move onto other stuff,’” said Tobias Harris, an expert on Japanese politics at Teneo Intelligence in Washington. “Whatever you want to call it, this is something much more limited than what Japan had feared.”
Industry analysts had said that if the Trump administration imposed a 20 percent tariff on Japanese auto exports, manufacturers’ costs could go up by $8.6 billion. SMBC Nikko Securities estimated that if automakers passed on such costs to customers, Japan’s car exports would decline by 200,000 units, cutting manufacturers’ profits by about 2.2 percent.
I am not entirely surprised that Trump is giving Japan a break in comparison with some of the other US “allies.” Shinzo Abe has been working hard to woo the Trump administration, largely because China is breathing down Japan’s neck. He has been pretty much alone in Western leaders in trying to work with Trump, with the arguable exception of France’s Emmanuel Macron.