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How Japan manages US trade pressure

19 7 0
23.05.2019

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is strikingly successful in deflecting pressure for a bilateral trade deal from US President Donald Trump. Some of the secrets to Abe’s success are obvious, others less so.

Among the former is Abe’s continuing charm offensive towards Trump and the direct communications pipeline that has developed between the two leaders. These underpin perhaps the most cordial relationship the President has with any world leader. The connection is invaluable to Abe given the power of personal relations to ‘trump’ other factors when dealing with the President.

Abe used a recent trip to Washington to his advantage, informing Trump of pending political events in Japan that constrain Abe’s policy options — namely impending upper and (possibly) lower house elections. But this is far from the whole story.

SEE ALSO: Trump’s approach to China has bad implications for global trade & world peace

The Abe administration has also blunted the Trump trade offensive through massive weapons purchases from the United States and a large rise in Japanese investment in the US economy — including in key industries in states important to Trump. Substituting in other areas for concessions on market access is a long-standing tactic in Japan–US relations.

The Abe administration has also been able to take advantage of the Trump administration’s preoccupation with the escalating trade war with China. But it is well aware that Trump’s current frustrations with China might feed renewed pressure on Japan with the need for a quick victory on trade. Still, a proactive Abe administration policy of warming economic ties with China is designed to provide some insurance against protectionist retaliation from the United States.

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© Asian Correspondent