News Analysis: Expectations for Trump-Abe meetings' deliverables lower than ever, experts say

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-24 17:20:33|Editor: Yamei
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NEW YORK, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday that he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will have dinner later here. The two leaders will also hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

Regarding the deliverables of their meetings, experts and media of both countries however have held lower-than-ever expectations given the two sides' differences on trade and issues related to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).


Among the three tweets Trump posted on Sunday, two were concerning Abe's visit. While congratulating Abe on his recent electoral victory and claiming that they will discuss military and trade issues, Trump has put the focus on pressuring the Japanese leader.

"We have done much to help Japan, would like to see more of a reciprocal relationship," Trump said. "It will all work out!"

U.S. experts have generally predicted that the trade and DPRK-related issues will top the agenda of Abe's five-day stay in the United States.

Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, told Xinhua that "Abe is riding high after winning his party's election and a mandate to continue his economic and security policies."

"During his meeting with President Trump, he will want to address the tariffs that President Trump has threatened to place on Japanese imports to avoid any economic disruption, while also ensuring that pressure is kept up on North Korea even as Presidents Trump and Moon seek to further negotiations with Kim," he said.

Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, added that "the U.S. will want to emphasize the limits on Tokyo's seeking to reduce tensions with China and Russia, bearing in mind the need to keep a common front."


Abe's challenges on economy and trade issues seemed insurmountable. Japan's Kyodo News Agency said that Trump has been deeply uncomfortable with the mounting trade deficit with Japan and he argued that the two sides' trade ties have not been as fair and as reciprocal as they should be.

Among all the discrepancies is Japan's automotive exports to the United States. Reuters reported that nearly two thirds of Japan's some 70 billion dollars' surplus as to the United States have come from this area, and Trump has proposed to curb this trend by increasing tariffs on Japanese cars, car parts, as well as steel and aluminum products.

Toshiro Muto, Japan's former deputy chief of central bank, was quoted by media that "Japan swallowed voluntary export curbs in the past, so Washington may find this as an attractive option." However, he foresees no possibility that Japan would accept this, saying that "this is something Japan must absolutely avoid."

The White House said on Friday that Trump plans to demand Abe agree on more market access for the good of U.S. companies. This would require both sides to start talks on signing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).

Japan has so far been reluctant to open the negotiations for fear that Japan has to open politically sensitive markets such as agriculture. Instead, it has hoped to push Washington back to multilateral frameworks such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In a bid to mitigate U.S. pressure, Tokyo has sent its Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, but no positive fruits have been reported yet.

The first round of U.S.-Japan high-level dialogues have reportedly failed due to their differences on the FTA. Their second round talk is due on Sept. 24.

Before leaving for the United States, Abe has told Japanese media that he will not commit to more than what he has promised in TPP agreement. As for bilateral disagreement on car export, the two sides shall deal with it by strictly abiding by WTO rules, he argued.


The recent positive momentum on the denuclearization of the Koran Peninsula can be another issue that will witness widening U.S. gap with Japan.

For all its worth, the DPRK's latest initiatives on the denuclearization has cheered the Trump administration up a lot, which has been embarrassed for lacking of substantive progress in its talks with the DRPK.

U.S. earnestness has been more evident than ever due to the upcoming mid-term elections: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said soon after the inter-Korean summit that the United States is ready to transform its relations with the DPRK immediately, and he hopes to travel to Pyongyang soon to prepare for the second summit between Trump and DPRK top leader Kim Jong Un.

Tokyo, for its part, has urged the DPRK to release abductees before agreeing to deliver reciprocal measures to the latter while the Trump administration, due to electoral consideration, will not allow any force to hold back the U.S. positive assessment of the effects of Trump's diplomatic endeavors.

Moreover, Paal told Xinhua that Japan has an abiding concern that Washington will address its concerns about long range missiles with the DPRK, but fall short on weapons that can reach Japan.

Mahaffee added that, for Abe, "the proposed constitutional change to increase the flexibility of Japan's military and break through the self-defense restrictions may become even more of a priority" as the United States and South Korea try to negotiate with the DPRK.

Concerning the Abe-Trump meeting, "Japanese expectations will be low given Trump's unpredictability and imperviousness to external pressures," said Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West.

(Matthew Rusling from Washington also contributed to the story.)