My Take on Abe-Trump Summit in Foreign Affairs

posted by Richard Katz on February 17, 2017 - 9:20am

Foreign Affairs ran my take on the Abe-Trump summit at .


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe got even more out of his February 19­–20 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump than he had expected. The question is how long their apparent goodwill can last, especially given the anti-Japan mood of much of Trump’s voting base.

During the meeting, Abe won virtually all the affirmations on security issues that he had sought…In addition, Abe avoided being publicly criticized by Trump on any of the issues on which Trump had lambasted Tokyo prior to the summit, including accusations of currency manipulation and security freeriding….

Abe also apparently evaded entanglement in Trump’s notion of a bilateral free-trade agreement, in which binding rules against alleged currency manipulation would be a prominent feature. Tokyo believes Japan has much more to lose than to gain from any bilateral trade pact…

The problem for Abe is that Trump cannot permanently abandon his tough posture with Japan (and other countries) without being criticized as “all talk, no action” by the blue-collar voters in five pivotal Rust Belt states that these voters swung from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. And the problem for Trump is that there is no way he can deliver on his promise to end trade deficits and “bring back” jobs supposedly taken by Japan and others.