Japanese PM begins diplomatic tour of EU and North America to discuss trade

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kicks off a busy week today in Paris, where he will meet with French President

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Photo: Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kicks off a busy week today in Paris, where he will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron. Mr Abe’s itinerary also includes Belgium, Italy, Slovakia, the United States and Canada.

The eight-day trip comes ahead of June’s G20 summit in Osaka, which will be the first such summit hosted by Japan. Global economic tensions, particularly between the US and China, and growing fears of an economic slowdown provide the backdrop for this event.

Japan is in a difficult position, given the aggressive, protectionist trade policies of its closest ally, the United States. PM Abe’s commitment to the liberal economic order will be on display when meeting with French and EU officials over the next two days. However, on Friday, PM Abe will visit Washington, where he will meet with US President Donald Trump.

If PM Abe, President Macron and European Council President Donald Tusk can further unite their trade policy stances in the next two days, Tokyo could gain more leverage in talks with Washington. This strategy has been employed already as US agricultural exports to Japan, an important market, have plummeted in response to the landmark Japan-EU trade agreement, which dropped tariffs on agricultural and automobile products. Further collaboration to strengthen the world’s largest free trade zone may well erode Washington’s determination to pursue protectionist policies.

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