January 24, 2017 6:31 am JST

'It's not fair,' Trump says of Japanese auto trade

New president looks to negotiate away the US trade deficit

TAISEI HOYAMA, Nikkei staff writers

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said Japan was engaging in unfair practices on auto imports and exports, a topic that could come up when he meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as early as February.

Trump spoke with chief executives of Ford Motor, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical and other major American corporations at the White House.

"If, as an example, we sell a car into Japan and they do things to us that make it impossible to sell cars in Japan ... we have to all talk about that," he said. "It's not fair."

While Japan imposes no tariffs on U.S.-made cars, the U.S. levies a 2.5% import tax on Japanese vehicles. But American automakers feel that environmental regulations in Japan and other factors still limit their access to the market. Ford logged lackluster sales in the country before its exit last year.

"It's very, very hard" to sell something to China and other countries, Trump said. "What we want is fair trade," he stressed.

The new president is expected to start negotiating with Japan and China toward reducing the trade deficit with these countries. China accounts for about half of the U.S. deficit. Though Japan accounts for less than 10% of the total, it still ranks third after China and Germany.

Trump also threatened a "very major border tax" on companies that move production out of the U.S. and called for greater investment at home. He said he will lower the corporate tax rate to 15-20%, and also promised to scrap at least 75% of existing regulations.

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