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Japan PM, Toyota chief agree to work together to boost U.S. jobs

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Toyota Motor Corp.
President Akio Toyoda agreed Friday to work together to contribute to
U.S. employment as a way to deal with President Donald Trump's trade
policy, according to a Japanese government source.

The leaders of Japan's government and its top automaker met over
dinner ahead of Abe's summit next week with Trump, who has taken aim
at Toyota Motor and called Japan's automobile trade practices "not
fair."

"We had a good talk...we exchanged views about the current state
(of things)," Toyoda told reporters after his meeting with Abe, but
declined to elaborate.

According to the government source, Abe and Toyoda discussed
ways to defuse Trump's trade concerns. Trump has taken issue with the
size of the U.S. trade deficit with export-oriented Japan.

Toyoda reiterated the world's second-largest automaker's
intention to expand investment in the United States, and Abe told
Toyoda that both countries need to cooperate in order to advance
their economic partnership, the source said.

Before his Jan. 20 inauguration, Trump threatened on Twitter to
impose a "big border tax" on Toyota Motor if the company goes ahead
with its plan to build a second auto assembly plant in Mexico to make
Corollas for sale in the United States.

Toyoda said at a press conference Thursday his company
"manufactures cars in the United States for the U.S. market."

Toyoda said last month the automaker will invest $10 billion in
the United States over the next five years. The company's North
America chief executive claimed the move was not in response to
Trump's remarks.

Toyota Motor is the top-selling Japanese automaker in the United
States, where 10 of its roughly 50 global production bases are
located.

The automaker has planned investments in North America of more
than 320 billion yen ($2.8 billion) in the current business year
ending next month. It invested about 230 billion yen in the year
ended last March and a similar amount the prior year.

According to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, a
Tokyo-based automakers' lobby, Japanese automakers exported about 1.7
million vehicles to the United States in 2016.

Toyota Motor, like other global automakers, has factories in
Canada and Mexico, which enjoy free trade with the United States
under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump has expressed interest in renegotiating NAFTA, which
entered into force in 1994, saying Thursday the deal has been "a
catastrophe for our country." The move could threaten the automakers'
bottom lines.

Abe told a Diet committee session Wednesday that he intends to
impress upon Trump the differences between the way the Japanese auto
industry works today and the way it worked amid the friction that
characterized Japan-U.S. trade relations in the 1980s.

In a telephone call, Abe told Trump that the Camry midsize cars
made by Toyota in the United States contain a higher ratio of local
content than vehicles made by the Big Three U.S. automakers.

Abe is expected to present Trump with a wide-ranging policy
package at their summit next week, offering Japanese contributions to
U.S. economic growth and job creation.

But a draft seen by Kyodo News did not contain specific
provisions for the auto sector, focusing instead on infrastructure
investment. (Feb. 4)