TOKYO (Reuters) – President Donald Trump discussed a possible free trade agreement (FTA) with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his trip to Tokyo, the U.S. ambassador to Japan said on Friday, contradicting Japanese officials who had said such talks never took place.
Japan has so far shown little interest in pursuing an FTA with the United States, preferring instead to push for a modified version of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) after Trump pulled his country from the pact.
On Nov. 6, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Trump had not mentioned an FTA when he met Abe for talks on relations between the two countries.
At a news conference in the Japanese capital on Friday, however, the U.S. envoy, William Hagerty, said, “They discussed a full range of trade options including an FTA.”
Washington may push Tokyo for an FTA to help reduce what it sees as an unfair trading deficit with Japan, Hagerty added.
“An FTA is one of the tools we may need to address that,” he said.
Trump returned to Washington this week after his first official visit to Asia, a 12-day tour that started with a two-night stay in Japan.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)