U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday, kicking off talks in Tokyo that the White House hopes will open doors in Japan for U.S.-made products and attract Japanese investment for infrastructure projects in the United States.
Tokyo is the second stop on Pence's 10-day tour of Asia, a trip aimed at emphasizing that U.S. President Donald Trump wants to boost U.S. trade in the region even though he killed the 10-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact shortly after taking office.
"We thought it was important, particularly post-withdrawal (from) TPP, to let the region know that we haven't forgotten about them," a White House economic policy adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters traveling with Pence.
Advocates for the TPP, negotiated by former President Barack Obama and supported by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said it would have dramatically reduced tariffs on U.S. goods and opened new markets. The deal was supported by business groups, but U.S. labor interests argued it would hurt American workers and Trump said he could negotiate a better deal.
Trump campaigned for office on an "America First" platform, saying he would boost U.S. manufacturing jobs and shrink the country's trade deficit with countries like Japan. Last year, Japan had a $69 billion trade surplus with the United States, the U.S. Treasury Department said, expressing concern over what it called the "persistence" of the imbalance.