What to Know in Washington: Trump Hails Japan Ties in Visit

President Donald Trump rallied U.S. and Japanese troops to wrap up a four-day state visit that focused more on pageantry than resolving deep differences on trade between the long-standing allies.

On a trip where no major agreement was reached, Trump’s statements were persistently at odds with the Japanese. He said he’s aiming to reach a trade deal by August, while Japanese officials said there was no such talk. After he brushed off North Korean missile tests earlier this month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called them a violation of United Nations resolutions.

Before flying out today, Trump stood with Abe on one of the largest naval ships Japan has built since World War II, which is being refitted to house some pricey, U.S-made F-35 stealth fighters. Japan’s government has said it plans to buy as many as 147 of Lockheed Martin’s F-35s — including some that cost 15.3 billion yen ($140 million) each.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance has never been stronger,” Trump told sailors and Marines aboard the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship at the naval base in Yokosuka, shared by the U.S. and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. “This remarkable port is the only one in the world where an American naval fleet and an allied naval fleet headquartered side by side, a testament to the ironclad partnership between U.S. and Japanese forces.”

Japan has sought to charm Trump to avoid costly tariffs and retain positive relations with an ally that ensures its security against neighboring China and North Korea. At the same time, Trump is looking to reach a deal with Japan quickly as he escalates his trade war with China.

Trump and Abe also toured the Japanese naval vessel Kaga, where the president praised the F-35 purchase and extolled Abe “for his commitment to improving Japan’s defense capabilities, which also advances the security of the United States of America.” Japan is the largest foreign buyer of the F-35 stealth fighters, considered the most expensive U.S. weapons system. Read more from Jennifer Epstein and Shannon Pettypiece.

Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
Trump in front of U.S. military personnel on board the USS Wasp aircraft carrier at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.

Trade Deal Timing: Trump said he may announce something on a U.S.-Japan trade agreement in August, hinting he will push for results well in advance of the six-month deadline he laid out earlier this month. A senior official in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration told reporters the two leaders had reached no such agreement on timing during their summit in Tokyo yesterday, which followed Trump’s threat to raise tariffs on the approximately $50 billion worth of cars and auto parts Japan exported to the U.S. annually. Read more from Jennifer Epstein and Shannon Pettypiece.

Aircraft Carrier Overhaul: Trump told U.S. troops stationed in Japan he plans to order traditional steam powered catapults aboard American warships instead of newer electromagnetic systems that he said may not work as well during wartime. Trump polled the sailors and Marines on the USS Wasp on steam versus electric catapults during his visit. “We’re spending all that money on electric and nobody knows what it’s going to be like in bad conditions,” he said. “So I think I’m going to put an order — when we build a new aircraft carrier, we’re going to use steam.” Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Defense, Trade and Foreign Policy

U.S.-China Trade: The U.S. isn’t ready to make a trade deal with China, Trump said during his visit to Japan. “I think they probably wish they made the deal that they had on the table before they tried to renegotiate it,” Trump said yesterday at a press conference with Abe. “They would like to make a deal. We’re not ready to make a deal.”

Trump said American tariffs on Chinese goods “could go up very, very substantially, very easily.” His comments came after trade talks between the two countries stalled earlier this month. Each side has since blamed the other, and Trump has threatened billions more in tariffs. Trump said businesses were leaving China for countries without tariffs, including the U.S. and Asian neighbors including Japan. Still, he also expressed optimism that the world’s biggest economies would eventually reach an agreement. Read more from Shannon Pettypiece and Iain Marlow.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg economists Dan Hanson and Tom Orlik have mapped out scenarios for a trade war with China. Their headline conclusion: If tariffs expand to cover all U.S.-China trade, and markets slump in response, global GDP will take a $600 billion hit in 2021, the year of peak impact. Read more.

Canada to Ratify USMCA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government gave lawmakers formal notice it intends to bring forward legislation to ratify the new North American trade deal. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced a “ways and means” motion in the House of Commons yesterday for the legislation, which is the first step in the process for parliamentary approval.

The procedure comes ahead of a visit to Ottawa by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who is scheduled to meet with Trudeau on Thursday to discuss advancing the agreement. A decision by Trump’s administration last week to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum helped clear major hurdles for lawmakers in all three countries to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Read more from Theophilos Argitis.

EU Red Line on Cars: The European Union vowed to reject any U.S. push to curb imports of EU cars and auto parts, highlighting the risk of greater transatlantic trade tensions. EU trade chiefs yesterday dismissed an idea floated by Trump earlier this month of fixing quotas on European automotive exports to the U.S. He claimed such shipments pose a threat to national security — a view repudiated by Europe.

On May 17, Trump put off a decision on auto tariffs for 180 days while saying that “domestic conditions of competition must be improved by reducing imports” and instructing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to address the matter in talks with the EU and Japan. Voluntarily restraining exports is illegal under World Trade Organization rules. “That is something that we are 100% against,” Swedish Trade Minister Ann Linde told reporters in Brussels where she met her EU counterparts. Other national ministers and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom echoed the point by saying the 28-nation bloc is determined to respect WTO requirements. Read more from Jonathan Stearns.

Trump on Iran: Trump said he isn’t pursuing regime change in Iran but aims to keep it from developing nuclear weapons, in an apparent effort to tamp down tensions that have led to fears of war. Iran “has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership,’’ Trump said at his press conference with Abe. “We are not looking for regime change. I just want to make that clear.’’ Read more from Ladane Nasseri and Zainab Fattah.

North Korea: Trump said he wasn’t bothered by recent North Korean ballistic missile tests his national security adviser labeled a violation of U.N. resolutions, adding that sanctions on the country give him time to reach a disarmament deal with Kim Jong Un. Trump said yesterday he believes the North Korean leader wants to build up his country’s economy, and that giving up nuclear weapons is a way to do that. Kim “believes like I do that North Korea has tremendous economic potential, like perhaps few other developing nations anywhere in the world, and I think that he’s looking to develop that way,” Trump said at the news conference with Abe. “He knows that with nuclear, that’s never going to happen. Only bad can happen. He understands that.” Read more from Jennifer Epstein and Shannon Pettypiece.

Politics & Elections

Booker and Gillibrand Look for Reboot: Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand(D-N.Y.) raced across Iowa over Memorial Day weekend, seeking to keep their campaigns alive and distinguish themselves in a crowded field of Democratic candidates. Booker and Gillibrand barely score in the the single digits in national polls, far behind the top-tier of candidates led by former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

The stakes are high for both Gillibrand and Booker as they try to avoid being relegated to also-ran status when the Democratic debates begin next month. The next few weeks could be critical for the two East Coast senators as they try to light a fire with voters and donors. In Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation nominating contest next February, both pursued strategies that they hope will help them reboot. Read more from Emma Kinery.

Harris Risks Fade Despite Cash: Kamala Harris is trouncing all rivals in the competition for cash from California’s deep-pocketed donors, but that’s no guarantee she’ll secure the victory she needs in her home state to land the nomination. One April poll showed Harris lagging Biden, and she lost a key endorsement this month when California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, said she would support Biden. Some top Democrats, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, are waiting to see how the primary battle plays out before showing their hand. Read more from Jeffrey Taylor and Bill Allison.

What Else to Know Today

Barr Probes FBI, DOJ: Attorney General William Barr is likely to consult with the intelligence community on how best to handle classified material related to the Russia investigation as he seeks out “corruption at the FBI and the DOJ,” the top White House spokeswoman said. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in defending Trump’s moves to declassify intelligence, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday without citing evidence that people within the agencies “were specifically working trying to take down the president, trying to hurt the president.”

“The president wants transparency, and he’s given the attorney general the ability to put that transparency in place, make those decisions,”’ Sanders said. She didn’t specifically respond to a question about whether Trump would accept “exoneration” of the motives behind the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, if that’s what Barr concludes. “I’m not going to get ahead of what the final conclusion is,” she said, adding, “we already know” that there was “a high level of corruption” and “wrongdoing.” Read more from Ros Krasny.

Trump-House Subpoena Deal: Trump’s lawyers have reached an agreement with the House Intelligence and Financial Services panels to stay the subpoenas of Trump’s financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, CNN reported, citing a court document and a source familiar. In exchange, they agreed to an expedited court schedule, CNN’s Cristina Alesci said in a tweet. The deal between Trump lawyers and the committees is similar to one reached earlier this week with the House Oversight Committee, according to the report.

Trump Wants Fast Appeal on Border Wall Ruling: Trump said he would ask for an “expedited appeal” against a California judge’s ruling late Friday that plans to build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border can’t go forward without his review.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam stopped short of barring Trump from diverting billions of dollars in the federal budget to pay for his promised border wall. The injunction prohibits the administration from starting work at two sites where contracts have been awarded, in Arizona and Texas. Parties have been asked to appear again before Gilliam in Oakland on June 5 to argue the merits for a more comprehensive injunction and a possible trial, according to the judge’s order.

In a tweet, Trump called the decision “a ruling against Border Security” by “another activist Obama appointed judge.” Read more from Kartikay Mehrotra.

Summer Travel Woes: Summer living is supposed to be easy, according to George Gershwin, but millions of air passengers during this year’s peak travel season may beg to differ thanks to a confluence of events that are making airlines and airports nervous. The U.S. carriers’ trade group, Airlines for America, estimates that a record 257.4 million people will fly from June 1 through the end of August, the tenth consecutive summer increase. Those throngs — totaling on average 2.8 million people each day — will confront two unique challenges: the possible reassignment of hundreds of aviation security personnel to the Mexican border, and the continued worldwide grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max. Read more from Justin Bachman.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com