Trump’s red carpet visit gives Japan respite on trade, but pressure stays

TOKYO : Japan rolled out the red carpet for U.S. President Donald Trump this week, winning a brief respite in its trade battle with the United States, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces pressure to deliver concessions after a summer election.

Trump on Tuesday wound up a four-day state visit featuring golf, sumo, a state dinner with Emperor Naruhito and inspections of U.S. and Japanese warships meant to showcase the alliance, but shadowed by a feud over the two-way trade gap.

After his Monday summit with Abe, Trump said he expected the allies to be “announcing some things, probably in August, that will be very good for both countries” on trade.

On Tuesday, however, Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said the U.S. leader’s comment probably reflected his hope for quick progress in the trade talks.

“When you look at the exact wording of his comments, you can see that the president was voicing his hopes of swift progress in talks toward something that is mutually beneficial,” Motegi told reporters at a regular cabinet meeting.

Concessions on trade before an upper house election in July could upset Japanese voters, especially farmers, who are important backers of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, although consumers might welcome cheaper food products.

Japanese officials have denied that the two countries had agreed to reach a trade deal by August.

Opposition parties said farmers would be in the line of fire after the election, adding that Trump had said “agriculture and beef were heavily in play” on Twitter on Sunday.

“Trump’s comments can only be taken to mean that Japan has in fact made major concessions on agriculture and livestock,” Yukio Edano, head of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) told a news conference.

“We cannot allow them to fight the upper house election by hiding this,” media quoted Edano as saying.@japan-today

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