Japan PM seeks to show off alliance, get Obama nod on Abenomics
By Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka ,Reuters
February 22, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be seeking to put a strong U.S.-Japan alliance on full display in the face of potential threats from a nuclear North Korea and an assertive China when he meets U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday.
Abe, who has kept his ratings high since taking office, also needs Obama's signoff on his economic revival recipe of big spending and hyper-easy monetary policy.
Expectations for "Abenomics" — especially drastic monetary easing — have sliced about 10 percent off the yen's value against the U.S. dollar since Abe took office, raising concern abroad that Japan is weakening its currency to export its way out of recession.
Abe, who departs Thursday, also hopes for at least a wink and a nod from Obama that would allow him to argue that Japan can negotiate special treatment for politically sensitive sectors such as rice if it joins talks on a U.S.-led free trade pact.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that Tokyo must be willing to negotiate all trade sectors, but did not rule out the possibility of special treatment in the final deal.
Japan's big businesses wants it to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership to avoid being left behind in global competition, but powerful farm groups are opposed, dividing Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Aides say Abe's top priority for the visit, during which he will hold a summit on Friday with Obama and deliver a speech entitled "Japan is Back," is to fix an alliance they argue was hurt by the 2009-12 Democratic Party of Japan's rule.
Abe is expected to come bearing one welcome gift — a promise that Japan will finally join an international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, known as The Hague Convention.