In a phone call with Abe on Saturday, Trump reiterated his pledge to create jobs in the United States and asked that the Japanese auto industry contribute, the Nikkei business daily reported, quoting unidentified Japanese government officials.
The two leaders discussed the automotive industry, senior government spokesman Koichi Hagiuda told reporters after the phone call, without giving details. A White House statement said the two "committed to deepen the bilateral trade and investment relationship".
Japan needs to craft a plan to show that its firms, car makers especially, will contribute to creating U.S. jobs, a former Japanese diplomat said. "I think that is the only way forward to make the bilateral summit a success," the diplomat said.
"Trump only cares about numbers. Everything has to be linked to jobs creation," he added. "Symbolically, autos is a very big player."
Abe has left the door open to discussing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, but some officials worry Japan would have little to gain while coming under intense pressure from Washington. Bilateral talks on specific sectors such as autos, however, are an option, officials have said.
Trump, who last week dropped out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pushed by his predecessor Barack Obama and favoured by Abe, has repeatedly attacked Japan's auto market as closed, in an echo of criticisms heard two decades ago.
Japan has rejected that accusation, saying it does not impose tariffs on U.S. auto imports nor put up discriminatory non-tariff barriers.
Over the decades, Japanese automakers have developed SUVs, mini-vans and pick-up trucks specifically targeting American consumers' taste for bigger cars, while U.S. brands have struggled to make inroads in Japan, where drivers overwhelmingly prefer domestic brands.
Foreign-branded cars accounted for only 7 percent of the Japanese passenger car market, led by Germany. American brands collectively made up less than a third of 1 percent of passenger cars sold in Japan last year.