Newly manufactured cars await export at port in Yokohama. Photo: REUTERS file
politics

Japan to U.S. on auto tariff assurances: Put it in writing, please

30 Comments
By Kaori Kaneko and Linda Sieg

The Japanese government wants written assurances from Washington that it will not impose hefty tariffs on its auto exports when U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet to clinch a deal on farm goods and digital trade next week.

What form such a promise might take, however, remains unclear, especially since the unpredictable Trump will need to sign off on it, Japanese sources familiar with the matter said.

Trump told the U.S. Congress this week that Washington and Tokyo had struck trade agreements on tariff barriers and digital trade but stopped short of assuring Japan that national security tariffs would not be imposed on its vehicles and auto parts. Avoiding the "Section 232" tariffs of up to 25% threatened by Trump is Japan's biggest goal in the two-way talks.

Japanese officials have said Tokyo will lower tariffs on imports of U.S. farm goods, such as beef and pork, to around levels in the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Trump abandoned soon after taking office.

Tokyo had lobbied for Washington to stay in the TPP, which both Abe and Trump's predecessor Barack Obama saw as a strategy to pressure China to play by global rules. The U.S. leader has insisted he would get a better deal in bilateral negotiations.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who as economy minister handled talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and is expected to meet him ahead of the leaders' summit, has said he wants to reconfirm in writing that Trump will not impose the tariffs.

"It's not fixed but we need a clear, objective guarantee," said a source familiar with the Japanese government's stance.

Autos count for about two-thirds of Japan's trade surplus with the United States and such tariffs would deal a harsh blow to its trade-reliant economy.

Several sources familiar with the matter said the assurance could come in a separate document from the new accord, and might be in line with a vague pledge in a joint statement issued last September when the two sides agreed to start trade talks.

That statement said both sides would refrain from measures"against the spirit" of the statement while talks continued.

Trump said this week he wanted more trade talks after the new deal was struck. Japanese sources said more negotiations were likely but some hope for a breather while officials shepherd the new deal through parliament.

Worries remain, though, that Trump will step up pressure as next year's presidential election draws closer.

Abe, who has cultivated close ties with Trump since the latter was elected, has made a practice of highlighting Japanese investment and job creation in the United States as well as purchases ranging from U.S. military gear to American corn."Of course, they are talking about a package that would please Trump," another Japanese source said, speaking like the others on condition of anonymity.

Toyota Motor Corp announced this week it was investing $391 million in its pickup truck assembly plant in San Antonio, Texas, as part of a plan to invest $13 billion in its U.S. operations over five years through 2021.

Another possible idea is for Japan to buy farm goods such as wheat for shipment to developing countries as humanitarian aid, the first source familiar with the matter said.

Motegi, who took over as foreign minister in a cabinet reshuffle last week, might hand the trade talks task to new Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura after the new deal is clinched, some sources said. As top diplomat, Motegi will have his hands full with a range of issues including a bitter feud between Japan and South Korea over history and trade.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

30 Comments
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Wide move by Japan. Only absolute morons take Donny's word for anything.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

So ends the era of mutual trust.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

LoL. Pres Trump word is good for Nothing. I am glad J Gov has caught on. China's Xi understands what he is dealing with.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

They want a Treaty that gets ratified by the US Senate. Anything less means nothing to this President. Heck, just be certain there is a 4 yr walk-away requirement so the agreement lasts passed the next POTUS election too.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

How naive are they? Donald Trump goes to toilet with every written treaties America signed.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Agreements are like toilet tissue, refer to HK and agreement by China and GB. It would be nice if the US would make their cars to fit Japan roads, then perhaps we would be more inclined to buy but they make the parts unaffordable. Toyota on the other hand does both, affordable back in the US and makes the cars there.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Trump said this week

but it's impossible to tell if he was lying once again, if he'd flip-flop and say something different later in the day, or if he's waiting for someone to make him an offer fuhrer padding his bank account, which seems to be the bottom line in all his putative policies.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Get it in writing, make it public, and always have a plan to hold orange man accountable if he decides to crap on it like he did with the Paris Accords and the JCPOA.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Avoiding the "Section 232" tariffs of up to 25% threatened by Trump is Japan's biggest goal in the two-way talks.

This is your regularly scheduled reminder that Section 232 tariffs are only supposed to be used for matters of national security. You know, things that are actually dangerous to the country, not to Trump's re-election chances.

Does Honda making their car in Saitama instead of Ohio sound like a matter of national security to you? This is one of many, many norms that Trump has eroded or downright trampled during his time in office. Once norms are destroyed, they are difficult to restore. Dear do-nothing Congress critters: future presidents of both parties are taking notes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yes, because the one thing Donald Trump holds sancrosanct and inviolate is a written agreement. I mean, we have absolutely no reason to think otherwise, correct?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

always have a plan to hold orange man accountable if he decides to crap on it like he did with the Paris Accords and the JCPOA.

Those needed to be crapped on and scrapped. The Paris Accords was grossly unfair to the U.S. and the JCPOA, popularly known as the Iran deal, was not going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

The TPP was so bad for the U.S. even HRC was against it in the end.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Trump promised a better bilateral deal but nothing better the TPP would have given him.

Then gets in a trade war and Japan is left with buying the product to give away because China doesn’t buy them anymore.

At least Trump is good at wasting tax payer money golfing...

The Art of the Deal...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Autos count for about two-thirds of Japan's trade surplus with the United States and such tariffs would deal a harsh blow to its trade-reliant economy.

I thought trade was two way, import and export. If it is trade-reliant economy then it means, it is import-export reliant economy.

It is supposed to be export-reliant economy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Put it in writing, please

Well, it's written down in a tweet... :-)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Rgcivilian1

It would be nice if the US would make their cars to fit Japan roads, then perhaps we would be more inclined to buy but they make the parts unaffordable. 

This lame and uninformed statement keeps being made by some posters.

Ok, can you name us just one not two U.S. Car that doesn't fit Japanese roads.?

The Hummer is relatively big and alot of them are running on Japanese roads.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Another possible idea is for Japan to buy farm goods such as wheat for shipment to developing countries as humanitarian aid

There are still thousand of people in temp homes due to the fukushima earthquakes who really need the humanitarian aid but are ignored and instead money is used to buy giveaways just to please one man.

What will it take to remove the hypnotic spell.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Pretty please with cherries on top

0 ( +0 / -0 )

drluciferToday  09:36 am JST

Rgcivilian1

*It would be nice if the US would make their cars to fit Japan roads,** then perhaps we would be more inclined to buy but they make the parts unaffordable. *

This lame and uninformed statement keeps being made by some posters.

Ok, can you name us just one not two U.S. Car that doesn't fit Japanese roads.?

The Hummer is relatively big and alot of them are running on Japanese roads.

You are uninformed actually. Hummers are extremely rare in Japan. There are only 266 in all of Japan on Goo-net used car classifieds compared to 97,000 Toyotas, as a simple indication of how many are around. Also, Hummer closed down in 2010, so more recent examples like a Ford F150 or Chevrolet Colorado, among many others can be used.

What the other poster meant to say was "if the US would make their cars fit the Japanese market". The contention is that the US car companies don't make any vehicle specifically for the Japanese market, unlike the Japanese manufacturers do for the US market (Toyota Avalaon, Tacoma and Sienna, Honda Pilot and Ridgeline). If they did, they would enjoy good sales as the automotive media would be extatic about any new model specifically designed for Japan, not just from the US but Europe as well.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

In writing or not, it would be a mistake to think that anything Trump says about anything can be trusted. Great Grandpapa doesn’t remember what he said, what he signed, or what he ate for breakfast. His brain is Swiss cheese, and his keepers have stopped his meds, so that is getting a lot more obvious.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hillclimber

You are uninformed actually. Hummers are extremely rare in Japan. There are only 266 in all of Japan on Goo-net used car classifieds compared to 97,000 Toyotas, 

Ridiculous, why use the number of packed used-hummers in one used car dealership out of thousands of used car dealership when talking about the number of hummers on japanese roads which wasn't even the issue.

Never knew you had the talent to know what others had in mind and intended to write, and it seems you were hired for your special talent by the said poster.

The issue was that American are to big and don't fit on japanese roads which is completely false and I used the hummer show the absurdity of his claim.

Ok I see, the 266 hummers that are at goo-net used car dealership were imported from the U.S. only for them to discover it was too big for the roads here and to be put up for goo-net and probably waiting for foreign buyers to snap them up for use abroad.

By the way, Car made specifically for the japanese is which kind of car? Don't tell me it should be Right side steering wheel because even my 6 year old son knows that.

Your comparison of the number of hummers and toyotas is too ridiculous, don't know what argument you were trying to make for something that is so obvious.

I have a simple question for you.

How many cars to you constitute alot ?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The issue was that American are to big and don't fit on japanese roads which is completely false and I used the hummer show the absurdity of his claim.

For most people in Japan, a Hummer isn't a suitable vehicle because of its size. That's just the truth. The fact that some people have Hummers doesn't change that. Size of a vehicle is a big consideration that people take into account. American cars in general are big but not all have too much difficulty on the roads in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tesla Model 3 is a good match for Japan both in size, price and being the top technology car. However still Tesla is not making a real effort to sell the car in Japan, why?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Tesla Model 3 is a good match for Japan both in size, price and being the top technology car. However still Tesla is not making a real effort to sell the car in Japan, why?

You might get part of your answer checking the price in the U.S. and in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The TPP was so bad for the U.S. even HRC was against it in the end.

if its so bad then why is Trump signing up for an FTA with Japan with the conditions almost the same as the TPP. Meanwhile US farmers are still at a disadvantage until their tariffs are lowered to TPP levels and still have to claw back the market share lost to the TPP member while they waste Japans time negotiation a TPP Ver2

3D chess playing ,master negotiator indeed LOL

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's a good idea to have it in writing, but I wonder how much that would change anything, considering how the US simply cancelled the written treaty they had with Iran.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Of course Uncle Trump must keep his words with such a good ally like Japan! No problem, Trump will written his  deal on toilet papers! How many rolls do you wanna him to sign, Mr.Abe ?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Another possible idea is for Japan to buy farm goods such as wheat for shipment to developing countries as humanitarian aid

Is that a kind of over generous?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Now, Mr Abe , U are waking up to reality.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

President Trump does not have to put anything in writing (to be used in future in a so-called Japanese court).

The fact that Japan has requested this shows what an insecure little island Japan really is.

But there again, Japan did always want it's cake and eat it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Since when has any contract, agreement or treaty meant anything to the US? Always, America First.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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