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Politics

Trade not focus of Trump's trip to Japan, White House says

Washington at odds with Tokyo on US auto tariffs

Trump's itinerary in Japan will include watching a sumo wrestling match with Abe and a state banquet hosted by the Imperial Family.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- Trade will not be the focus of U.S. President Donald Trump's upcoming trip to Japan, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters Wednesday, in effect dropping a previously floated goal of clinching a quick trade deal by end of May.

Trump, who will visit Japan from Saturday to Tuesday as a state guest, signaled in late April ahead of his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that a trade deal could be ready by the time of his trip to Japan this month.

A senior White House official said that U.S. trade relations with Japan have "never been stronger," when asked whether a deal was expected to come from Trump's visit.

"I don't think that the purpose of this trip is to focus on trade," the official said. "It's really to be state guests of their majesties. And that's really the heart of the visit. It's a celebration of their new roles and this new era that's been kicked off -- the Reiwa era -- and a chance to celebrate the alliance."

The official said, however, that "there will be some substantive things to announce."

The Trumps will be Japan's first state guests following the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito on May 1. 

The president is scheduled to watch sumo with Abe on Sunday before visiting the emperor and empress on Monday. Trump and Abe will also hold a bilateral meeting on Monday, to be followed by a state banquet hosted by the Imperial Family in the evening. 

On Tuesday, Trump will visit the Yokosuka U.S. Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, the Navy's largest overseas installation in the world, to meet the troops. 

Working-level trade talks between the U.S. and Japan this week saw Washington pushing back against Tokyo's demand to eliminate tariffs on Japanese cars and auto parts, which will be a major sticking point in negotiations going forward.

Trump will be headed to Japan again in June for the G-20 summit in Osaka.

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