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Abe, Trump agree to discuss 2-way trade framework after U.S. TPP exit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald
Trump agreed Friday to discuss a bilateral trade framework in the
wake of the U.S. withdrawal from the multilateral Trans-Pacific
Partnership.

"We will seek a trading relationship that is free, fair and
reciprocal, benefiting both of our countries," Trump told a joint
press conference after the meeting at the White House. Japanese
Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence
will helm a new Japan-U.S. economic dialogue group.

In a joint statement released after the summit, the leaders said
talks on such a framework will be included in their exploration of
ways to both deepen their trade and investment relations and promote
economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Abe and Trump also affirmed their resolve to further strengthen
the Japan-U.S. defense alliance, echoing reassurances made by U.S.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis when he visited Japan last week.

While Japanese officials said Trump did not explicitly ask Abe
to start negotiating a bilateral free trade deal, he has repeatedly
advocated a country-to-country approach.

Trump has taken issue with the size of the U.S. trade deficit
with Japan and called for the Japanese market to be more open to U.S.
automakers, indicating his administration may drive a hard bargain in
forthcoming negotiations.

Even after Trump pulled the United States last month out of the
12-party TPP championed by his predecessor Barack Obama, saying the
pact would hurt American jobs, Abe has continued to hail the
strategic benefits of the deal, which notably excludes China from its
signatories.

Japan will continue to "advance regional progress on the basis
of existing initiatives," the joint statement said.

The TPP, in its current form, can only take effect if it is
ratified by at least six members that represent 85 percent of the
combined gross domestic product of the 12 members. Without U.S.
ratification, the agreement would effectively be dead because the
United States alone accounts for 60 percent of the group's total GDP.

"The president and I confirmed our strong resolve that we will
create free and fair markets, based on rules, in the Asia-Pacific
region," Abe said at the press conference.

Abe appeared to caution against allowing China to dominate
regional trade standards, saying fair trade means protecting
intellectual property and not allowing state-owned enterprises to
intervene in the economy using state capital.

Friday's summit came amid uncertainty about how Trump's "America
First" agenda could affect Japan, which counts the United States as
its top export destination and defense ally.

On the bilateral security front, Trump thanked the people of
Japan for hosting the U.S. military and mirrored the language of the
Abe administration in calling the bilateral alliance "the cornerstone
of peace and stability" in the Asia-Pacific region.

Trump's remarks on the campaign trail last year had raised
concerns that his administration might reduce its commitment to
defending Japan unless the island ally coughed up more of the costs
of stationing U.S. troops there.

According to the joint statement, the leaders agreed that the
United States will strengthen its presence in the region and Japan
will "assume larger roles and responsibilities in the alliance."

Abe and Trump agreed that the planned relocation of a U.S.
Marine Corps base within Okinawa is the "only solution" to the
dangers of keeping the base at its current site without inhibiting
its deterrent capacity, Japanese officials said.

The plan to move Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential
area to reclaimed land at the coastal Henoko site has met with fierce
local opposition.

In a continuation of a commitment made by Obama, the leaders
confirmed that the protections of the countries' bilateral security
treaty extend to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The
treaty obliges the United States to "act to meet the common danger"
if Japan comes under armed attack.

The uninhabited islets are administered by Japan but claimed by
China and Taiwan. In the statement, the leaders said they "oppose any
unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan's administration of
these islands."

Abe and Trump affirmed the importance of freedom of navigation
and overflight in the East China Sea and called for the avoidance of
actions that would escalate tensions in the South China Sea, where
China has been assertive in pressing claims to disputed territory.

According to Japanese officials, Trump told Abe about his
telephone call Thursday night with Chinese President Xi Jinping --
their first conversation since Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20 -- but
did not go into detail about the content of the call.

The leaders also strongly urged North Korea to abandon its
nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Also Friday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met his
U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, after the two
held a telephone conversation on Tuesday.

After their summit and working lunch in Washington, Abe and
Trump flew together in Air Force One to Palm Beach, Florida, to talk
further over golf at Trump's Mar-a-Lago vacation estate.

According to the joint statement, Abe invited Trump to make an
official visit to Japan before the end of the year.

"We have a very, very good bond -- very, very good chemistry,"
Trump said at the press conference of his personal relationship with
Abe. "I'll let you know if it changes, but I don't think it will."

Abe and Trump held an unofficial meeting in New York in
November, shortly after Trump's presidential election victory. (Feb. 10)


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands ahead of their talks at the White House in Washington on Feb. 10, 2017. (Kyodo)


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint press conference following their talks at the White House in Washington on Feb. 10, 2017. (Kyodo)


(Clockwise from 2nd from L) U.S. first lady Melania Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S. President Donald Trump and Abe's wife Akie have dinner together in Palm Beach, Florida, on Feb. 10, 2017. (Kyodo)