The Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, currently on a 10-day long tour of Asia, arrived at the second stop of his tour as he landed in Tokyo on Thursday. Pence's tour of Asia is a trip to reassure key Asian allies and he is expected to convey President Donald Trump's wish of boosting trade connections in the region. Improving trade relations in Asia is key for the Trump administration after it abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The Trump administration seeks to foster closer trade ties with Japan and the two sides are expected to open a comprehensive economic dialogue during the talks. While Trump has complained about Japan being a currency manipulator, boosting ties with Japan are crucial to bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the US.
Trade imbalances are likely to Pence's chief focus
The Vice President is expected to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for lunch before sitting down with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Asp. Security issues, chiefly Washington's tens relations with North Korea, economic issues, and trade imbalances are expected to take center stage. In 2016, the US had a $69 billion trade deficit with Japan and the US Treasury Department has repeatedly expressed concern about the imbalance. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had also highlighted the issue when he met Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko.
However, the Japanese maintain that their trade surplus with the US has reduced and state that the imbalance with China is far greater. The Trump administration is believed to favor a two-way free trade agreement (FTA), but the Japanese are wary of such an FTA. Aso informed reporters that he would talks with his US counterpart abut a broad two-economic deal, and the two sides may agree upon the basic principles of the agreement.
Pence has good ties with Japan
As Governor of Indiana, Pence developed successful ties with Tokyo's business and political elite and Japanese firms employ 60,000 residents in the state. In the US, Indian has the highest per-capita foreign direct investment (FDI) from the Asian economic powerhouse. The Trump administration seeks to attract more FDI in order raise some money for its proposed $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Pence will also seek to assure Japanese businesses that Trump's 'America First' rhetoric will not affect trade and business relations with the US.