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Abe vows to clear up Trump's "misunderstandings" on auto trade

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated Monday he will seek
to correct U.S. President Donald Trump's "misunderstandings" about
Japan's automobile trade practices when the leaders meet in
Washington next week.

The Feb. 10 meeting, the leaders' first face-to-face talks since
Trump took office on Jan. 20, follows the president's singling out of
auto trade with Japan as an example of unfair practices.

"If they're going to charge tax to our countries -- if as an
example, we sell a car into Japan and they do things to us that make
it impossible to sell cars in Japan...it's not fair," Trump said at a
meeting with U.S. business leaders last week.

"This is something that (people) at various levels on the U.S.
side, not just President Trump, constantly say to Japan, but the
truth is there is no tariff barrier in Japan," Abe told a House of
Councillors budgetary committee Monday.

"If there are those sorts of misunderstandings on the U.S. side,
it's natural to let them know," he said.

While Japan does not directly apply tariffs to imports of U.S.
vehicles, U.S. trade officials have identified various regulatory
issues they say form barriers to accessing the Japanese market.

Abe blamed a lack of suitable marketing and dealerships for U.S.
automakers' poor sales in Japan.

"There are (barriers) on European vehicles but not on U.S.
vehicles, and for good reason -- this is something we have
continually told the U.S. side up until now," Abe said.

Ahead of his meeting with Trump, Abe plans to meet Toyota Motor
Corp. President Akio Toyoda this Friday, according to a Japanese
government source. The gathering will also likely involve Chief
Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

Trump took aim at Toyota Motor while he was president-elect,
threatening to impose a "big border tax" on Japan's top automaker if
it proceeds with its plan to build a new plant in Mexico to produce
Corolla cars for the U.S. market.

In an apparent attempt to counter Trump's criticism, Toyoda has
said his company will make capital investments worth $10 billion in
the United States over the next five years.

Toyota Motor is the largest seller in the U.S. market among
Japanese carmakers, with about 30 percent of its global sales coming
from North America, while having 10 of about 50 global production
bases in the United States.

Japan's largest automaker invested around 230 billion yen ($2
billion) in North America in both fiscal 2014 and 2015. It also plans
further investments of more than 320 billion yen in this business
year ending in March. (Jan. 30)