U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that the United States would not have won new trade negotiations with Japan without the threat of stiff tariffs on automobiles and parts.
"Without tariffs we wouldn't be talking about a deal," Trump said after he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed last week to start talks for a bilateral trade agreement on goods. The move is a concession by Tokyo, which dropped its earlier insistence on a multilateral approach to address trade issues.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said Abe told his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama, that Japan was not going to negotiate for a bilateral trade deal.
"I said, 'You don't have to negotiate, but we're going to put a very, very substantial tax on your car if you don't,'" the Republican president said.
"We're totally prepared to do that if they don't negotiate. But Japan is wanting to negotiate. Actually, they called about three weeks ago," Trump said. "And they said, 'We'd like to start negotiations immediately'."
Trump quoted Abe as telling him in a meeting last Wednesday in New York that many Japanese automobile companies have invested in the United States over the last year and a half, and that they will continue to do so.
"It's true, had big expansions," the U.S. leader said. "And very importantly, he said, 'Many more are coming,' because they have an incentive now to be here."
The two leaders met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly as Trump complained of hefty U.S. trade deficits with China, Japan and other major trading partners.