President Trump on Saturday started his four-day visit to Japan by declaring that Tokyo has a “substantial” trade advantage over the U.S. -- and that he hopes a future trade agreement will rebalance the situation.
Trump, speaking to businessmen at the U.S. ambassador's residence, hailed the U.S.-Japanese relationship. He said that the countries are “working together to promote mutually beneficial investment.” and that they are working on a bilateral trade deal.
“I would say that Japan has had a substantial edge for many, many years but that's OK,” he said. “Maybe that's why you like me so much.
“But we'll get it a little bit more fair,” he added. “I think we'll do that.”
Trump has made rebalancing trading relationships, particularly with China and the European Union, a priority of his administration. He has threatened Japan with tariffs on automobiles and auto parts if Japan does not give ground to the U.S. in talks.
In his speech, he said that he hopes the deal will address the imbalance by removing barriers to U.S. exports and ensuring “fairness and reciprocity” in the U.S.-Japanese relationship. He struck an optimistic note about negotiations, though, and said that “we’re getting close.”
“Just last week, U.S. beef exports gained full access to Japan and to the markets in Japan for the first time since the year 2000,” he said. “We welcome your support for these efforts and we hope to have several further announcements soon and some very big ones over the next few months.”
As part of that push, he told business leaders that there’s “never been a better time to invest and do business in the United States.”
“Last year for the first time in a decade the United States was ranked the most competitive economy anywhere in the world,” he said, before taking a swipe at the Federal Reserve. “During that year our economy grew. At three percent. And if the Fed didn't raise interest rates frankly it would have been much higher than 3 percent.“
He went on to tout his administration’s efforts to cut red tape and the strength of U.S. labor markets as he sought to sell the U.S. to potential investors. He told the audience that the U.S.-Japanese relationship "has never been more powerful, never been closer."
“If you join in seizing the incredible opportunities now before us in terms of investments in the United States, I think you're going to see a tremendous return on your investments,” he said.
Trump will become the first head of state to meet Emperor Naruhito on Monday. He will also play golf and attend a sumo wrestling championship match during his visit.
Also on the table is North Korea. National Security Adviser John Bolton said that Trump will talk with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about “making sure the integrity of the Security Council resolutions are maintained."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.