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The US–Japan trade deal a win for Trump or Abe?

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US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inked the US–Japan Trade Agreement to much fanfare on September 25, 2019.

Abe declared the deal a ‘win-win’ for both sides while Trump has emphasised that it ‘a huge victory for America’s farmers, ranchers and growers’.

Yet the deal is positioned as an initial agreement in the midst of ongoing negotiations. With an estimated liberalisation rate of 60–70 percent on a trade value basis, it falls far short of the comprehensive standards expected of bilateral accords under World Trade Organization rules. So why the rush to get a limited deal?

Trump’s need for a political trophy is motivated at least in part by the slew of crises facing his administration and the need to refocus public attention on a positive achievement.

Trump is facing impeachment inquiries by US Congress after the whistleblower complaint alleging abuse of public office. Trump is said to have put pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic Party presidential frontrunner Joe Biden — under the implied threat of withholding US$391 million earmarked for military aid. These revelations have seen Trump’s support decreasing with even a public opinion poll by the partisan Fox News showing a majority of respondents in favour of impeaching Trump.

SEE ALSO: US, Japan ink trade agreements on farm, digital exports

The US–China trade war is wreaking havoc on US farmers. Given the peculiarities of US gerrymandering and the Electoral College system, farmers in battleground states such as Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were a key group that helped Trump over the line in his November 2016 electoral victory.

But with his proclaimed goal........

© Asian Correspondent