Trump and Abe talk trade as well as relations with North Korea

Hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, US President Donald Trump said the tariffs could be a topic during the visit. (AP)
Updated 18 April 2018
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Trump and Abe talk trade as well as relations with North Korea

  • The two-day Trump-Abe summit played out amid growing tensions between the two countries over North Korea and trade
  • Abe had been expected to urge to Trump to exempt Japan from the tariffs and press him on the missile issue

PALM BEACH, Florida: Seeking to reassure Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of their close alliance ahead of planned talks with North Korea, the Trump administration has signaled it is open to considering exempting Japan from new steel and aluminum tariffs that Abe opposes.
Hosting Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Trump said the tariffs could be a topic during the visit, which comes as Trump prepares for a historic summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Trump also gave Abe a win on Tuesday, pledging to raise the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, a top Japanese priority, in his meeting with Kim.
But Trump later suggested there was one area where he and Abe would have to agree to disagree: the Trans-Pacific trade partnership, which Trump pulled the US out of days after his inauguration, but has recently said he might be open to re-joining.
“While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States,” Trump tweeted, following a dinner with Abe and their wives. “Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers.”
The two-day Trump-Abe summit played out amid growing tensions between the two countries over North Korea and trade. Japan has warned that Kim may simply be trying to buy time and has raised concerns that the US might not press Kim to abandon his short- and medium-range missiles, which pose an immediate threat to Japan, as they discuss the country’s nuclear weapons program.
Japan has also been questioning why it wasn’t granted exemptions to Trump’s protectionist measures on steel and aluminum when most other key US allies — among them Australia, Canada, the EU and Mexico — have been.
But Abe spent much of Tuesday praising Trump’s courage for agreeing to meet and suggested the two had already come to terms on several contentions issues.
Speaking through a translator during one of their meetings, Abe said he and Trump had had “very in-depth discussions” on both North Korea and economic issues and said that “on those two points” they had “successfully forged a mutual understanding.”
The two did not reveal what those agreements were, but Abe had been expected to urge to Trump to exempt Japan from the tariffs and press him on the missile issue.
Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, had said earlier Tuesday that issuing Japan the waiver was “on the table,” but he declined to say what Trump would ask for in return.
The talks came amid news that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had recently traveled in secret to North Korea to meet with Kim ahead of a US-North Korea summit planned in the next two months. Two officials confirmed the trip to The Associated Press on Tuesday. The officials were not authorized to discuss the visit publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
In the first news report about the meeting, The Washington Post said it had taken place two weeks ago, shortly after the CIA chief was nominated to become secretary of state.
Trump had revealed earlier Tuesday that the US and North Korea had been holding direct talks at “extremely high levels” in preparation for the summit. Trump also confirmed that North and South Korea are negotiating an end to hostilities before next week’s meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The meeting will be the third inter-Korean summit since the Koreas’ 1945 division.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war,” Trump said.
Trump said five locations for the summit are under consideration.
Trump took credit for the inter-Korean talks, saying, “Without us and without me, in particular, I guess you would have to say, they wouldn’t be discussing anything.”


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 51 min 38 sec ago
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.
“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”