Trump singles out Toyota exec during dinner with Japanese business leaders

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE appeared to rib an executive from Toyota on Saturday during a dinner on his first day in Japan for a state visit.

In his opening remarks before a dinner with Japanese officials and business figures at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Tokyo, Trump pointed to Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., and referred to him as "the boss."

ADVERTISEMENT

"Where’s Toyota?" Trump asked the room, according to Bloomberg News.

"There’s nothing like the boss," he added after the crowd acknowledged Toyoda. "I thought that was you."

Toyoda's company issued a rare rebuke of Trump earlier this month after he declared that some auto sector imports were a threat to national security.

The car manufacturer slammed the remark, saying it was in essence a declaration that Japanese investments in the U.S. auto industry were "not welcomed" and that "the contributions from each of our employees across America are not valued."

During his remarks Saturday, the president discussed business deals that Japanese companies, including Toyota, were announcing with U.S. companies.

Other automaker executives invited to Saturday's dinner included chiefs from Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp. and Subaru Corp. 

Trump pointed to a $1 billion deal announced last month involving Toyota and Japan's SoftBank with U.S. ride-hailing company Uber to develop self-driving cars.

"Self-driving cars are becoming a bigger and bigger thing. It's the future. You say it's the future, I'm OK with it," Trump said to laughs.

"It seems very strange when you look over and there’s no one behind the car going 60 mph. When you say it, I’m good with it," he quipped.

The president went on to tout the value of increased cooperation between Japanese businesses and U.S. companies.

"If you join in seizing the incredible opportunities now before us in terms of investing to the United States, I think you're going to see tremendous return on your investments," Trump predicted. "I think right now we probably have the best relationship with Japan we've ever had."

His remarks came at the start of a four-day trip to Japan, where Trump will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and take part in a number of ceremonial activities as well as play golf and attend a sumo championship game.

Trump is the first state guest to visit Japan since the country's new emperor was crowned earlier this month. While the trip is expected to be largely ceremonial in nature, Trump and Abe are expected to discuss both North Korea and the possibility of a bilateral trade deal during the visit.