SAINT-JEAN-DE-LUZ, FRANCE - U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France but did not announce they have reached a trade deal.
"We're working on one and we're fairly close," said Trump.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has been leading the negotiations with Japan added, "We've worked very intensively and probably as a result of this meeting will be able to come to agreement on core principle." Prior to the Trump-Abe meeting, Lighthizer held talks with Japan's Economic Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Washington.
Japanese media have reported that a deal is close, with Tokyo agreeing to lower tariffs on American beef and pork to levels set by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while letting Washington maintain its 2.5% levy on Japanese autos for now.
Earlier Sunday during his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Trump said that he was "very close to a major deal with Japan".
"Prime Minister Abe and I are very good friends," he added.
The two leaders enjoy close ties but Trump often complains that Tokyo has an unfair advantage in bilateral trade.
In January 2017, very early in his presidency Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a signature multilateral trade deal of the Obama administration.
After the U.S. withdrawal, in 2018, the 11 remaining TPP countries, including Japan, signed a version of the trade deal, championed as an antidote to growing American protectionism under Trump.
North Korea missile tests
Asked about recent North Korean missile tests, Trump said he is "not happy" about it but that he doesn't consider Pyongyang to be violating agreements.
When Trump offered Abe to give his thoughts, the Japanese leader repeated his stance that the tests were a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Trump responded, "I can understand how the Prime Minister of Japan feels" but said that the North Korean leader is not the only one testing those missiles.
"We're in the world of missiles, folks, whether you like it or not," said Trump.