Trump's arrival Tokyo on Saturday amid heavy security measures comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to underscore the warm relationship between the two allies even though the Trump administration has recently regarded auto exports to the US as a potential national security threat, further seeking to cut the American trade deficit with Japan, Presstv Reported.
The US has engaged in a costly trade war with China to stop what it views as Beijing’s unfair treatment of American companies. Trump's policies has also given rise to simmering tensions with Japan and the European Union over trade.
While Trump and Abe are expected to discuss trade during planned meetings on Monday, officials of both countries have discounted the possibility of any deals during the visit which lasts through Tuesday.
"I don’t think they will find the final solution at this summit meeting," said public affair minister Takehiro Shimada at the Japanese embassy in Washington during a press briefing on Thursday.
Instead, Shimada addes, he anticipated the two leaders would "confirm the importance of the acceleration of the negotiations" toward "creating a win-win" agreement.
An unnamed US official cited in a Bloomberg report also downplayed the prospects on trade, saying it’s not the focus of the four-day trip, which is built around the symbolism of close Washington-Tokyo ties. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, further asserted that the US president plans to promote bilateral, free and fair trade during his conversations with Abe.
Trump stated last week that imported automobiles represented a threat to US national security but then declared a delay in imposing tariffs on imported vehicles and parts from Japan and other nations for 180 days to pursue negotiations.
A Japanese official also cited in the report said that Trump and Abe were unlikely to resolve trade disputes involving automobile tariffs during the visit this week.
According to press reports, talks are expected to take place at the ministerial level, with Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi slated to host US Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer on Saturday.
US media outlets also reported Saturday that top negotiators for the US and Japan met ahead of Trump’s trip to Tokyo to discuss a potential bilateral trade deal, in hopes of staving off tariffs on Japanese cars and also allow the American agriculture industry more access to Japan.
The US reportedly holds a $60 billion trade deficit with Japan.
Abe has worked hard to have a personal rapport with Trump, but has so far failed to achieve much.
The US has imposed tariffs on Japanese steel and aluminum and has threatened to tariff popular Japanese automobiles such as Honda and Toyota. The president decided to delay his decision on foreign car tariffs ahead of the May 18 deadline for him to make a decision while negotiations are still underway.
Trump has said he could sign a deal while he is in Japan, but experts say it’s unlikely this trip will offer anything concrete on trade.
"With so many opportunities for engagement, there appears to be less emphasis this time on concrete deliverables or joint statements and much more emphasis on demonstrating the strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship," said Nicholas Szechenyi, Japan chair at Center for Strategic and International Studies, as quoted in an ABC News report.
"But there are also issues that require a lot of coordination, North Korea and trade among them. So it will be an interesting dynamic surrounding the visit," he added.