It was an opportunity for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to tame the rage of disapproval against him back home over various issues but to his disappointment, the premier failed to agree on a deal with American President Donald Trump that would exempt Tokyo from fresh US steel and aluminium tariffs as per his wishes, AP reported.
The two leaders instead declared that they reached a consensus over a new "free, fair and reciprocal" trade agreement after the two days of talks that ended on Wednesday, April 18.
The summit took place on April 17 & 18 at Trump's private Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida where Trump said in a joint press conference that if the two countries could reach a consensus on a fresh deal, they would certainly discuss on that issue.
On the question of granting an exemption, Trump said the prevalent trade deficit between the US and Japan was "too high" to make that call. As per the US Department of Commerce, the trade deficit was to the tune of $56.1 billion in 2017, the AP report added.
The Japanese side was understandably displeased since most of the US's big allies like Canada, the European Union, Australia and Mexico were granted exemptions on Trump's protectionist measures. Tokyo had also expressed its reservation over a bilateral trade deal with the US saying it was in favour of Washington rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Barack Obama era deal which the US quit soon after Trump became the president last year for it was allegedly doing less favour to America's interests.
Trump recently indicated an intent to rejoin it after facing pressure from his Republican Party which was worried over the impact of his protectionist policies that triggered a trade war, especially with China, but during the summit with Abe, Trump again reiterated his original stand of not joining the TPP.
Trump assures Abe on North Korea
Abe, however, got an assurance from Trump on the question of North Korea. Japan was uncomfortable with Trump's proposed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May end or early June but Trump assured him that he and Abe were on the same page when it came to the North Korean leader.
Trump also told Abe that he wanted to see the families of the Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang reunite at the earliest.
Pyongyang and Tokyo also have differences over the number of people abducted. While the former said it was 13, Tokyo said it was 17. North Korea is of the opinion that while five citizens were already returned to Japan, eight died while four never entered its territory, the AP report added. The issue has remained a top priority of the Abe government.
Washington was also working hard to secure the release of three of its citizens held captive by North Korea. Trump, who was extremely upset over the death of an American student Otto Warmbier in North Korea last year, expressed optimism over the release of the Americans.