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Japanese prime minister touts US manufacturing relationship, opportunities

Houston (Platts)--13 Feb 2017 121 pm EST/1821 GMT


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touted the strong Japanese-US manufacturing business relationship during a visit to the US Friday and said the countries will work to improve trade relations outside of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

President Donald Trump, in one of his first executive actions, removed the US from the TPP, which the US, Japan and 10 other countries negotiated.

Related: Find more content about Trump's administration in our news and analysis feature.

"As for Japan and United States trade and investment, as well as economic relations, how can we develop and grow our relationship?" Abe said in a press conference via a translator. "As I have already mentioned, Deputy Prime Minister [Taro] Aso and Vice President [Mike] Pence will create a new framework for dialogue, and I am quite optimistic that good results will be seen from the dialogue."

Abe said the goal of TPP to create a "free and fair common set of rules" for trade in the region has not changed -- a point Trump echoed. Abe said Japan's high-tech capabilities, including its implementation of high-speed trains, will help to further Trump's growth strategy.

Earlier, at a US Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Abe spoke out against companies owned or backed by state capital in the market as well as currency manipulation -- two key issues for US steelmakers.

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"Look at steel, overproduction in a certain country has not ceased and as a consequence, increase in export results in depressed price for steel worldwide. Unless rules for intellectual property protections spread globally, fruits of innovation will be ruined," Abe said.

Abe underlined Japan's history of investment in the US auto industry. In the 1990s, the US and Japan experienced tensions from auto sales, but then Japan started investing to build factories in the US.

"Quarter century hence, more than 70% of Toyota badge cars and 90% or more Honda badge cars running on American roads are made in America," Abe said. "It's not just cars. If you take the manufacturing industry as a whole, according to US statistics, Japanese companies are creating 380,000 jobs in the United States, more than any other foreign businesses."

Abe said outstanding direct investment from Japanese businesses in the US amounts to $411 billion and a total 840,000 jobs. "Needless to say, nobody in Japan complains that his or her job has been taken away by the Americans because the Japanese have gained in business as well, truly a win-win relationship," Abe said.

In addition to auto plants, Japan has had a long history of steelmaking in the US via joint ventures, like Nucor-Yamato Steel in Blytheville, Arkansas, formed in 1987. Recently, a Japanese rebar producer targeted in a US rebar trade case acquired a mill in Texas.

On December 21, Kyoei Steel announced that it purchased BD Vinton, the rebar mill in Texas previously owned by Bayou Steel Group and ArcelorMittal USA.

US trade relations with Japan have not been all rosy, as US steelmakers have petitioned for antidumping duties on Japanese rebar and cut-to-length plate.

One week later after Kyoei Steel announced its Texas rebar mill purchase, the company notified the US Department of Commerce that it would not participate in the ongoing antidumping investigation on Japanese rebar imports -- a move that typically results in higher duties because Commerce calculates the duty margin based on adverse facts available.

--Estelle Tran, estelle.tran@spglobal.com

--Edited by Annie Siebert, ann.siebert@spglobal.com

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