Reports: Abe to propose major job-creating plan to Trump
Angling to pre-empt complaints over Japan's perennial trade surplus with the United States, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly plans to propose a sweeping economic cooperation package meant to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the US when he meets with President Donald Trump later this month.
Abe and Trump are expected to meet on February 10. Major Japanese newspapers cited a draft of the proposal that calls for cooperation on building high-speed trains in the US northeast, Texas and California. The two sides would also jointly develop artificial intelligence, robotics, space and Internet technology.
On a broader basis, the two countries would cooperate in building liquefied natural gas facilities in Asia to help expand exports of US natural gas and work together to expand nuclear energy-related sales.
The aim appears to be to turn what could potentially be a major crisis over trade friction into a business opportunity for both sides.
Abe's proposed public-private initiative is intended to create several hundred thousand jobs, the reports said Thursday, and involve US$150 billion in new investment in US infrastructure from Japanese government and private sources over the next decade.
Asked in parliament about his plans for talks with Trump, Abe said Japanese companies are making significant contributions to the US economy.
"Toyota has been making big investments in the US It has built big factories, created jobs. If they make profits, their salaries increase and the benefits for Japan also grow. It's important for each of us to think that way," Abe said. "If the United States grows, without a doubt, that benefits Japan."
Overall, the expectation is that the plan would generate US$450 billion in new business.
The government pension fund may invest in the projects, the reports said. Such investments can raise controversy over risk management of funds relied upon by millions of people in their retirement.
Earlier this week, Abe and other officials rejected accusations by Trump that Japan is deliberately seeking to devalue the yen to help its export sector.
Abe has been grilled repeatedly in parliament over Trump's rejection of a regional trade initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and over how he plans to handle friction over trade, saying he believed it was possible to strike a bilateral agreement with the Trump administration.
Trump's complaints over Japanese not buying many US-made cars drew a stern response from Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp.
"We are already producing extremely large numbers of cars in the US. We are one of American manufacturers, aren't we? I hope President Trump understands that," he told reporters at an event Thursday.
Abe and Toyoda are due to meet on Friday. Officials dismissed speculation that their meeting would be a pre-summit strategy session, saying it was arranged long in advance.
Asked about the reported package, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that nothing definitive has been decided for talks between the two leaders.
"We hope to have constructive talks in order to seek how we can forge a mutually win-win relationship," Suga said. He did not deny the report, but only added that any decision on involvement by the Government Pension Investment Fund would be based on whether it would benefit those covered by the fund.
Japan's trade surplus with the US fell 4.6 per cent in 2016, to about US$60.2 billion.