- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2019

Kicking off a fun-filled Tokyo weekend, President Trump told Japanese business leaders Saturday they’re “doing great” but that he’s seeking a bilateral trade deal to reset the balance of the relationship in the coming months.

Japan has had a substantial advantage for many, many years, but that’s OK. Maybe that’s why you like us so much,” Mr. Trump said at the home of William F. Hagerty, the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Moving forward, he said, trade will be “a little bit more fair, I think.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to charm Mr. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump during the three-day state visit, hoping the pomp and circumstance of a new emperor, a sumo-wrestling showcase and a round of golf keeps the threat of U.S. tariffs out the headlines.

Mr. Trump is helping Japan toast the new, “Reiwa” era, as Emperor Naruhito ascends to the Chrysanthemum Throne after his father’s abdication. It was the first time in more than 200 years a Japanese emperor stepped down, making the U.S. president a guest of high honor.

But Mr. Trump, who views trade as a major issue heading into the 2020 campaign, kicked off the weekend by talking business. He applauded Japan’s economic might, Toyota’s big investment in UBER’s push for self-driving cars and Japanese orders of military equipment.

“It’s probably appropriate right now with everything that’s going on. The world is changing,” Mr. Trump said.

He said progress is being made on a trade agreement, as the U.S. weighs whether to slap big levies on Japanese autos by November.

Mr. Trump sees trade deficits with other nations as a core weakness.
“With this deal we hope to address the trade imbalance, remove the barriers to United States exports and ensure fairness and reciprocity in our relationship. we’re getting close,” he said.

Mr. Abe softened the ground ahead of Mr. Trump’s visit, agreeing to end Japan’s ban on beef from cattle over 30 months old.

“That’s a big deal,” Mr. Trump told farmers at the White House on Thursday. “Folks that do beef, they are very much happy. They were shocked to see that one. But it’s happening, it’s happening fast.”

Military cooperation is also on the weekend docket, as leaders grapple with North Korea’s missile capabilities in the region.

The Tokyo visit is the second of three meetings between Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump in as many months.

Mr. Abe stopped by the White House in April, and Mr. Trump will see Mr. Abe again during the G20 summit in late June.

The two leaders have a visibly warm relationship, and both enjoy golf. Mr. Abe plans to present a “Trump Cup” at a sumo wrestling tournament that’s 54 inches tall and weighs 60-70 pounds.

“I think right now we probably have the best relationship with Japan we’ve ever had,” Mr. Trump said Saturday.

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