U.S. President Donald Trump’s five-nation Asian trip has started off with an automotive mention. During his visit in Japan, Trump asked Japanese automakers to build more vehicles in the U.S. as he attempts to fill the trade gap between the two nations.
“Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over,” Trump said as reported by Bloomberg. “Is that rude to ask?”
The comment was made during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where Trump kept to his talking points on fair trade. Trump also pressed Japan to purchase new military equipment from the U.S., such as F-35 fighter jets in an effort to create U.S. jobs, a campaign focus of Trump.
Thus far Japanese automakers are staying quiet in response to Trump’s remarks. The Japanese auto industry currently employs 850,000 Americans and builds a vast majority of the vehicles it sells in the U.S. in North America.
Trump’s comments likely stem from the fact that American automakers sell very few vehicles in Japan, which is true. Japan also imports $69 billion more to the U.S. than the U.S. exports to Japan. Contrary to popular belief, Japan does not impose tariffs on American-made vehicles, rather it imposes numerous rules on them that effectively keep American cars off the Japanese market. Automakers also claim Japan manipulates their currency to keep the Yen artificially low, making importing vehicles a problem.
President Trump will be leaving Japan without any sort of trade deal. Japan has tentatively committed to buying some military equipment, but those deals were in the works long before this week’s trip.