US President Donald Trump expressed optimism about the prospects for a trade accord between Washington and Tokyo as he welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House on Friday.
"I think a lot will be accomplished," Trump told reporters with Abe sitting alongside him in the Oval Office. "We have a chance to make a very good and long term trade deal with Japan."
The president, who is set to visit Japan next month, suggested that an agreement may be signed during that trip.
"I think it can go fairly quickly. Maybe by the time I'm over there, maybe we sign it over there. But it's moving along very nicely, we'll see what happens," Trump said.
The president accepted an invitation from Abe to come to Tokyo at the end of May and become the first foreign leader to meet with the new emperor, Naruhito, who is set to succeed his father, Akihito , on May 1.
In June, the Japanese city of Osaka will be hosting the G20 summit, and Abe has strongly lobbied Trump to attend the gathering.
Despite a warm personal relationship with Abe, Trump has repeatedly complained about the US trade deficit with Japan, which stood at $67.6 billion in 2018.
Japan is the fourth-largest US trading partner.
Last year, the president imposed tariffs on imports of Japanese steel and aluminum and threatened to slap levies on vehicles from Japan.
Washington has been pressing Japan to eliminate tariffs on US agricultural products, while at the same time calling on Japanese automakers to cut back on exports in favor of boosting production at their plants in the United States.
"We'll be discussing very strongly agriculture because as the PM knows Japan puts very massively tariffs on our agriculture," Trump said Friday. "We don't tariff their cars so I think it's something we'll work out."
Abe pointed out that since the start of Trump's term in January 2017, Japanese firms have invested $23 billion in the US, enabling an additional 43,000 jobs.
The important thing, Abe said, was that the negotiations continue in the hope of achieving "a result that benefits both sides."
In addition to discussing trade, Trump plans to brief Abe about the state of denuclearization negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The prime minister concluded his remarks to reporters by expressing "deep appreciation" for White House hospitality and said that he and his wife were very much looking forward to a dinner Friday night with Donald and Melania Trump on the occasion of the first lady's 49th birthday.
The president said that when he asked his wife if she would like to share her birthday with the Abes, she replied, "I can't think of anybody I'd rather have."
Trump and Abe are expected to play golf together on Saturday. EFE
The Japanese leader was the first foreign leader to be invited to Trump's Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, and the two men have met a total of 10 times, according to Japan's embassy in Washington.