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International relations

With Trump in mind, Japan and France seek united front

G-20 and G-7 hosts coordinate stance on free trade and multilateralism

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron wave after their joint press conference at the presidential palace in Paris on Tuesday.    © Reuters

PARIS -- Japan reached out to France Tuesday to form a united front on global policy in a potential check against U.S. President Donald Trump as the two countries prepare to host world leaders at two major economic summits this summer.

During his trip to Paris, Japanese Prime Minister Abe asked French President Emmanuel Macron to coordinate topics to be discussed when Japan hosts the Group of 20 meeting in June and France hosts the Group of 7 meeting in August.

Part of the reason for the pre-summit coordination is to form a united front on free trade, multilateralism and climate change, all issues that Trump has clashed with both parties on.

"We want to send out a strong message, that we will be joining hands and dealing with issues together," Abe said at a joint news conference.

Abe is on the first leg of a globe-trotting trip that takes him to France, Italy, Slovakia, Belgium, the U.S. and Canada, Abe met Macron in Paris for roughly 50 minutes.

Abe told Macron that Japan will put special emphasis on creating rules for the digital economy at the Osaka meeting. 

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January, Abe said he wanted the Osaka G20 "to be long remembered as the summit that started worldwide data governance," and named the effort the "Osaka Track." In Tuesday's meeting, Abe called on Macron for help in setting new rules for e-commerce.

Tokyo is expecting the wording of the G-20 leaders' statement to be reflected at the discussions at the G-7 two months later. Abe coordinated with Macron on topics, such as fair trade, reform at the World Trade Organization and environmental issues, to include them in the G-20 statement.

At their meeting Abe promised the French president that Japan would offer "unwavering support" in the restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, after the historic building suffered a major fire last week.

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