Reluctant Abe says US, Japan to start talks on 'trade deals'

U.S. President Donald Trump | Chip Somodevilla  Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump | Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

President Donald Trump is not exempting Japan from the steel and aluminum tariffs at this time.

Yet the "bromance" between Trump and Abe has its limits.

"While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don't like the deal for the United States". The issue sours already strained relations between Japan and North Korea, and Abe often wears a blue ribbon to remind himself of their abduction. While President Trump said he preferred a bilateral FTA with Japan, Prime Minister Abe said re-engaging in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the best option for both countries. Trump and Abe spent Wednesday morning golfing at one of Trump's nearby courses in their latest show of "golf diplomacy", and had an intimate dinner on Tuesday evening with their wives. But Abe's arrival was swiftly overshadowed by news that Trump had sent Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang for talks with Kim Jong Un in preparation for a summit, a reminder of fears in Tokyo that Japan could be left out of talks key to its own national security.

With Abe standing next to him, Trump claimed he plans to meet with Kim but raised the possibility the summit might be called off because of a lack of agreement over an agenda.

Indeed, Michael Wolff's tell-all book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House includes a reference to the president spending his evenings eating a cheeseburger in bed, while his youngest daughter Tiffany told TMZ following the book's release that her father "loves McDonald's", a food he reportedly often enjoyed while on the campaign trail. "And now we are going to have our dinner".

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"President Trump and I agreed to start talks for free, fair and reciprocal trade deals", Abe said at a joint news conference with Trump. And right from the beginning we hit it off. "We'll see what happens", Trump said.

That was the session Trump suggested he was most looking forward to.

But on trade, Trump made clear he would prefer a bilateral trade deal with Japan instead of rejoining the 11-nation TPP Pacific Rim trade pact.

"Our country's position is that TPP is the best for both of the countries".

Except it didn't turn out that way.

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The U.S. trade deficit with Japan past year was $56.1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Still, several officials said publicly the personal connection between the leaders is robust enough to withstand the tensions.

Trump said at the press conference, "We will not repeat the mistakes of previous administrations".

This is part of an all-day summit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago hotel in Palm Beach.

The summit was hastily put together after Trump accepted Kim's invitation for a meeting in the next two months, and as the president prepared to implement the metals tariffs. They like it; I like it. Trump pulled out of talks just three days into his presidency.

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