The Mini U.S.-Japan Trade Deal Wasn’t a Win for Trump or Abe

The Mini U.S.-Japan Trade Deal Wasn’t a Win for Trump or Abe
President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, Sept. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

A momentous week in which the House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump overshadowed the announcement in New York that the United States and Japan had reached agreement on a mini trade deal. While its economic impact will be limited, the deal’s implications for the global trading system could be more significant—and not in a good way.

The Trump White House is trumpeting the new U.S.-Japan deal as “phenomenal” and a big win for American farmers, but how big is it really? And is it enough for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to sell at home? From the press statements and fact sheets, it appears that the deal will follow the outlines of what Trump and Abe previewed in August at the G-7 summit in Biarritz—except that Abe seems to have mostly caved on his key priority of getting something on automobiles. But key details are still missing because there is still no official text of the agreement.

Based on what is known about the deal, Japan will, as expected, cut its agricultural tariffs largely in line with what it negotiated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump took the U.S. out of soon after taking office. In turn, the U.S. will cut its industrial tariffs—but not for cars or car parts, as Abe had wanted. Abe also didn’t get an explicit, written commitment from Trump to exempt Japanese automobile exports from any tariffs imposed on alleged national security grounds under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act. In a joint statement, the parties promised only to “refrain from taking measures against the spirit of these agreements.” During the press conference announcing the deal, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the president had no intention “at this point” of imposing tariffs on Japanese cars.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.