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Now Even Japan Is Pushing Back Against Trump’s Tariffs

Analysts in Japan said that over the 16 months that Mr. Trump has been in office, Mr. Abe’s government has learned how to deal with the mercurial president.

“The Japanese government is starting to feel that the appeasement tactics aren’t really working,” said Takuji Okubo, managing director and chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors. “Actually taking countermeasures may work better.”

Mr. Okubo added that Mr. Abe was most likely “quite disappointed by the relatively cool, or even cold, treatment by President Trump” in recent weeks.

Now Even Japan Is Pushing Back Against Trump’s Tariffs
Now Even Japan Is Pushing Back Against Trump’s Tariffs

For Mr. Trump’s first year in office, Mr. Abe’s close personal relationship helped stave off the American president’s long-percolating economic ire toward Japan.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump, invoking three-decades-old perceptions of Japan, criticized the country for “crushing” the United States in trade. After he took office, he threatened to impose a “big border tax” on Toyota if it built a new auto plant in Mexico.

After he was elected, his bark seemed worse than his bite. But with the steel and aluminum tariffs, and increasing pressure to open bilateral trade talks, Japan has started to resist.

Senior Japanese officials have insisted that the government is not interested in a two-way trade deal. Last month, Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s minister of economic and fiscal policy, told reporters that “we don’t have a bilateral free-trade agreement in our mind” and said plans for talks between Mr. Motegi and Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, were not intended as a step toward any bilateral agreement.

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