Abe vows to defend Japan's trade interests

Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, seen here with President Donald Trump at the White House in February last year, is set to hold talks with Mr Trump in New York next Wednesday amid concerns that the US could follow through on threats of further tariffs on
Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, seen here with President Donald Trump at the White House in February last year, is set to hold talks with Mr Trump in New York next Wednesday amid concerns that the US could follow through on threats of further tariffs on exports.PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST

TOKYO • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to defend Japan's interests as he prepares for talks with President Donald Trump in New York next week amid concerns that the US could follow through on threats of further tariffs on exports.

On Monday, Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is set for a second round of talks on bilateral trade with his US counterpart, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Mr Abe is scheduled to hold his own broader discussions with Mr Trump next Wednesday.

While the United States is pressing for a bilateral trade agreement, Mr Abe has persistently urged Mr Trump to reconsider his decision to quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), seeking to entice the US back to the regional trade pact.

"National interests will always clash," Mr Abe said in an interview with Japanese public broadcaster NHK on Thursday, hours after winning a third consecutive term as leader of the country's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The victory clears the way for him to become Japan's longest-serving premier.

"I want to defend Japan's national interests to the hilt," Mr Abe said. "For example, on agricultural products, I have said I won't go any further than what was offered in TPP."

Mr Abe has invested in building a personal relationship with Mr Trump, who tweeted his congratulations to the Japanese leader after Thursday's election.

But he has failed to secure an exemption for Japan from US steel and aluminium tariffs implemented in March.

Mr Abe's ultra-loose monetary policy has helped Japan achieve its strongest period of economic growth in decades.

But US trade sanctions are a looming threat to what he claims as a major success of his almost six years in office.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline 'Abe vows to defend Japan's trade interests'. Print Edition | Subscribe