For Japan, this meeting soothed many worries the country has had in light of the Trump Administration’s most recent decisions. These decisions include the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between the United States, Japan, China, and several other countries with interests across the Pacific. Within three days of his inauguration, Trump officially withdrew from the TTP, claiming that [“i]t’s 5,600 pages long, so complex that nobody’s read it.” Trump was not the only one to have doubts towards the merits of the trade agreement. Politicians that range from Rand Paul to Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren have critiqued it for its currency manipulation, secret negotiations, and industry influence. Overall, it is safe to say that, if Trump did not take action, it was only a matter a time before a future American President did.
Regardless of the whether it was warranted or not, the withdrawal from the TTP has left Japan reasonably concerned over whether Trump’s action foreshadow a shift in the favorable alliance the U.S. has maintained with Japan ever since the 1951 Japan-America Security Alliance. Ever since the alliance was formed shortly after World War II, the United States has militarily defended Japan, following up the Japan-America Security Alliance with the later amended Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Alliance in 1960. Through the alliance, the USFJ protects Japan from any and all military threats and Japan pays the United States as compensation. However, according to Donald Trump, the Japanese do not pay nearly enough for the priceless protection the U.S. provides. He has also accused Japan of currency manipulation and not buying enough American products.
For many Japanese sympathizers, Trump’s criticism of the deal and his withdrawal from the TTP has been a cause for alarm, putting in question the security of the relationship between Japan and the United States. Especially since President Obama was so supportive of the Japanese-American relationship. This press conference, however, served as an opportunity for Trump to confirm the strong bond between Japan and the United States.
When an American reporter asked Abe whether he thought the withdrawal from the TTP was a mistake, Abe evaded the question but largely praised the Japanese-American trade relationship as having a “truly win-win relationship.” Trump reiterated throughout his speech that Japan is “an important and steadfast ally,” going as far as to call the Japanese-American alliance a “cornerstone of peace.” He also asserted that the United States is wholeheartedly dedicated to “the security of Japan.”
Overall, the meeting between the two countries’ powers went remarkably well. Trump was exceedingly friendly with the Prime Minister, who went out of his way to visit Trump shortly after he was elected in November, and even went as far as to embrace him instead of giving the customary handshake. It is reported that Abe and his wife intend to retreat to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida this weekend, a “gift” from the President to the Prime Minister.