WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2017 – In a joint White House news conference today, President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed the importance of improving trade ties between the two countries, a welcome sign for the agriculture sector, which is still reeling from the loss of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

American farmers depend heavily on trade and many had been counting on the TPP to boost exports to Japan, Vietnam, Australia and other Pacific Rim countries in what was supposed to be a 12-member trade pact. Trump, who had campaigned on the deal not being fair, pulled the U.S. out of it in his first week in the White House.

Trump has said repeatedly he prefers bilateral deals.

The president, addressing U.S. and Japanese reporters in the East Room of the White House, said the U.S. “will seek a trading relationship that is free, fair and reciprocal, benefiting both our countries. The vibrant exchange between us is a true blessing.”

Abe said he still fully believes in the goal of the TPP, which would have allowed the U.S. and Japan – together accounting for 30 percent of global GDP – to provide an example of how to expand free trade. But he also stressed a new plan for strengthening the trade relationship with the U.S. was welcome.

Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso will head the effort and their first task will be to “create a new framework for dialogue,” Abe said.

After the news conference, the White House put out a statement, in which the leaders reaffirmed, among other things, their desire to deepen “their trade and investment relations and of their continued efforts in promoting trade, economic growth, and high standards throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

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“Toward this end, and noting that the United States has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the leaders pledged to explore how best to accomplish these shared objectives. This will include discussions between the United States and Japan on a bilateral framework as well as Japan continuing to advance regional progress on the basis of existing initiatives.”

David Salmonsen, a senior director for congressional relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, told Agri-Pulse that he was heartened by the meeting and hopes to see more concrete results from the dialogue soon.

“We like our trade with Japan and we want to see more in the future,” Salmonsen said. “The fact that they want to keep talking about trade is a good thing. We’ll just have to watch and see what comes of it.”

 Trump’s meeting with Abe kicked off two days of talks between the two leaders. They left Washington later for Trump’s Mar-a-Largo retreat in Florida where golf was also on the agenda.


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