SEOUL — President Trump kicked off a high-stakes G20 summit in Osaka by greeting his Japanese host, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and thanking him for using the auto industry to create jobs in the U.S.
Major Japanese brands like Nissan, Honda and Toyota have poured money into sites across the country, including Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Michigan, according to a printed handout from Mr. Abe.
“They’re building magnificent plants,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump also mused that it was his second visit to the island nation in as many months.
“We just left Japan and now I’m back,” Mr. Trump quipped, and recalled handing out a sumo award on his last trip. “Everybody’s talking about it all over the world.”
Mr. Trump will meet with a star-studded cast of leaders during the two-day summit, before heading to Seoul to discuss the nuclear issue in North Korea with his South Korean allies.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe are clearly fond of each other.
They’ve bonded over golf, and Mr. Trump in May agreed to a delay a thorny decision about auto tariffs until after domestic elections in Japan this summer.
Asked whether he planned to go forward with tariffs on Japanese automakers, Mr. Trump said, “It will be very positive.”
The White House said behind closed doors, the leaders continued to discuss a way forward on trade and ways to use the American-Japanese alliance to protect sensitive information and technology.
Mr. Abe later joined Mr. Trump for a joint meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The U.S. president initiated a three-way fist bump with the leaders and congratulated Mr. Modi on his recent election victory.
He also sounded upbeat about talks with Mr. Modi, even though one day earlier, he lashed out at India for raising tariffs on U.S. goods.
“This is unacceptable and the Tariffs must be withdrawn!” Mr. Trump said en route to Japan.
Later Friday, Mr. Trump is set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tensions with Iran will loom large in the Putin meeting, since Russia is a prominent backer of Tehran. It’s unclear, however, how far Mr. Trump will wade into questions around elections interference.
The president says he is tough on Russia, though he tends to shy away from any talk of 2016 meddling that could undermine the legitimacy of his win.
He will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday to discuss the escalating trade war between their countries.