Lawmakers urge Trump to raise trade issues with Abe

Lawmakers urge Trump to raise trade issues with Abe
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Several groups of House and Senate lawmakers on Thursday called on President Trump to tackle major trade issues with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Trump will meet on Friday with Abe at the White House, and the two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of topics from security to trade.

Ahead of the meeting, three groups of lawmakers sent letters urging Trump to discuss currency manipulation, the trade imbalance with Japan and barriers to U.S. automobiles among a slew of other trade issues in the context of a possible bilateral trade agreement. 

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The two leaders are expected to discuss the prospects of a bilateral trade agreement after Trump withdrew the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) last month. 

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“We greatly appreciate the strong and lasting U.S. relationship with our ally,” the senators wrote.

"In particular, we urge you to address currency manipulation and auto-related non-tariff barriers," they wrote. 

A senior White House official said Thursday that a discussion of currency manipulation wasn’t high on the administration’s agenda, although it could come up in the course of two days of talks. 

“The U.S.-Japan auto-trade relationship hurts American companies and workers and should be addressed with urgency,” the senators wrote.

In a separate House letter, Reps. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who is co-chairwoman of the House Auto Caucus, said that Japan’s trade practices have led to a trade imbalance that has hurt American workers and businesses for decades.

“The U.S. must make it clear that any discussions of a bilateral agreement would address currency manipulation, eliminate all of the non-tariff barriers, include provisions to prevent new barriers, and link any U.S. tariff reduction to demonstrable opening of the Japanese market,” they said.

Last year the U.S. trade deficit with Japan was $69 billion, America's second largest trade deficit, the lawmakers said. 

"Unfortunately, the barriers to American autos in the Japanese market are deeply structural and shifting, and all negotiated agreements in the past have failed to change the market conditions for U.S. businesses," the House members wrote.

"Any increased investment in the U.S. by Japanese companies does not excuse the unfair treatment of U.S. exports to Japan."

In another letter, Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanOvernight Defense: Over 500 amendments proposed for defense bill | Measures address transgender troops, Yemen war | Trump taps acting VA chief as permanent secretary Lawmakers seek to limit US involvement in Yemen's civil war The curious case of Andrew McCabe's legal defense fund MORE (D-Wis.) also urged Trump to address serious trade impediments facing American manufacturers in the Japanese market.

"While Japan is a very important ally to the United States, these unfair trade practices have had enormous, devastating impacts to the American manufacturing sector," they wrote.

U.S. car manufacturers sold 19,000 cars in Japan in 2015. During the same time, Japanese manufacturers sold 1.6 million cars in the United States, the lawmakers said.

"American workers deserve to have fair access for their products in the global market," they wrote.