Trump Ends Visit to Japan with Uncertainty over Date for Trade Deal

President Donald Trump concluded Tuesday his trip to Japan, during which he maintained the two countries would strike a trade agreement by August, a claim now called into question by the Japanese economy minister.

While in Japan, the President said that the country’s trade gap with the U.S. could be “straightened out rapidly” and that the two sides would be making trade announcements “probably in August.”

However, his optimism was met with skepticism by the Japanese economy minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, who said that such claims were solely based on Trump’s personal hopes for a quick deal, rather than any real indication of fast progressing negotiations.

“When you look at the exact wording of his comments, you can see that the president was voicing his hopes of swift progress in talks toward something that is mutually beneficial,” Motegi told reporters.

The U.S. trade deficit with Japan was $67.6 billion in 2018, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said, characterizing it as “large.” As a result, the President has signaled willingness to reduce the substantial gap between the two countries, CNBC informs.

For the past several months, the U.S. and Japan have been embroiled in a dispute over tariffs on automobiles and agricultural products and experts believe that any trade agreement between them would take much longer than what Trump forecasts.

“I think (Trump) was trying to indicate that he wouldn’t put pressure on Prime Minister Abe ahead of the upper house elections in Japan in July, and so it was going to take until August to get this done,” said Matthew Goodman, senior advisor for Asian economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Goodman also believes that reaching a deal would require more time due to the complicated legislative processes in both countries.

Motegi said last week that although progress has been made in the trade talks, there still remain a number of differences that have to be sorted out, stressing that no time frame has been set for that to happen.  

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