Trump Hammers Japanese Automakers on Trade

President expected to echo similar sentiment throughout Asian tour.

by on Nov.06, 2017

President Donald Trump, left, kicked off a 10-day trip to Asia by meeting with Japan's Shinzo Abe and hoping to pave the way for more cars to be built in the U.S.

President Donald Trump returned to one of his old themes during a state visit to Japan, calling on the Japanese automakers to export fewer cars and build of their vehicles at plants in the United States.

“Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over,” Trump implored during a briefing with business executives before asking, “That’s not rude?”

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Trump has frequently cited Japan, along with Mexico, Canada, Germany, China and South Korea, as among the countries that have taken advantage of the U.S. in trade deals.

Nonetheless, the new jabs at Japanese trade policy came as Trump began a 10-day tour of Asia, hoping to shore up support for the U.S. diplomatic position in Asia and to assemble a coherent policy on containing what is viewed as a hostile and well-armed North Korea.

Calls for the Japanese to build more vehicles in the U.S. have echoed through American politics for decades. In 1980, then Republican candidate Ronald Reagan said he would consider imposing quotas on Japanese cars.

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Trump and Abe discussed the trade imbalance between the U.S. and Japan during Trump's visit.

By and large, however, American policy makers were reluctant to make trade an issue because of Japan’s strategic importance during conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and the long Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Trump’s comments echoed his previous jabs, but they were notable because he lobbed them publicly during his visit here. And they’re an indication that he will not let his close relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe quiet his long-standing concerns about trade and manufacturing, the website Politico noted.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association’s U.S. office said recently Japanese automakers have a 35-year history of investment and innovation in the U.S.

“JAMA members produced a record-high of nearly four million vehicles in the U.S. in 2016, a more than tenfold increase since the mid-1980s,” JAMA noted in a recent report.

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It also shows that JAMA members provide over 90,000 direct U.S. jobs in manufacturing, R&D, and other roles; an eightfold increase over the same time span.

Japanese companies, including Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Subaru, all have extensive operations in the U.S.

Trump and his aides have repeatedly trumpeted the president’s friendship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which began in February when the Japanese leader visited Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida. Abe has also benefitted having recently won a “snap” election in which he increased his parliamentary majority.

The U.S. has long cooperated with Japan, Trump noted, adding, “I have to say that for the last many decades, Japan has been winning. And you do know that.”

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Trump is expected to lodge similar complaints about trade his Asian tour, which is scheduled to include stops in South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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