Tariffs on steel, threats of car import levies and intense pressure for a two-way economic deal: despite warm personal ties, U.S. President Donald Trump is giving Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a decidedly tough time on trade.
Trump has also withdrawn from a multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) promoted by Abe as a counterweight to China, abandoned a climate change accord backed by Tokyo and is pursuing talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un notwithstanding Abe’s warnings about past mistakes.
Since Trump was elected, the two leaders have met nine times, shared burgers, played golf three times and spoken nearly two-dozen times by phone. In their latest telephone chat overnight, Abe and Trump agreed to meet again before a U.S.-North Korea summit that could take place next month.
“I think he has penetrated Trump’s mind to a certain degree, but that is different from his pet agenda on trade,” said Keio University professor Toshihiro Nakayama.
“Prime Minister Abe and his team expected a bit more because of the personal chemistry. That was a bit of wishful thinking – look at Macron,” Nakayama added.