News Column

US Jobs on Obama-Abe Meeting Docket

Feb 22, 2013

President Barack Obama planned to talk with Japan's prime minister Friday about creating U.S. jobs, an Obama aide said ahead of the two leaders' meeting.

"The leaders are expected to talk about a range of economic issues, including, very importantly, how to create more economic growth and creating jobs in our country," deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs Michael Froman told reporters before Obama was to meet with Shinzo Abe at the White House.

"Right now, trade investment in Japan already supports a million U.S. jobs, and we expect that the leaders will be discussing ways to deepen and broaden their economic cooperation in a way that's mutually beneficial for both our countries," Froman told reporters.

The leaders were also expected to talk about energy and climate-change -- and possibly about cybersecurity, "an issue of concern to both countries," he said.

The administration also was expected to gauge Japan's intent to join a trans-Pacific trade agreement under negotiation, Froman said.

Tokyo has expressed a desire to become a negotiating partner but has not yet joined negotiations. The Trans-Pacific Partnership -- which Washington champions as a way of binding the economically vibrant region together -- was a major issue in Japan's December general election that gave Abe's Liberal Democratic Party a landslide victory,

The LDP, despite its name, is a conservative party.

Abe, for his part, was expected to seek Obama's support for his controversial but so-far successful economic-stimulation policy, officials in Japan said.

That policy involves a government spending splurge and super-easy money, with negative interest rates, to boost Japan's battered economy.

Japan's central bank last month doubled its inflation target to 2 percent.

The goal of spending Japan's way out of a recession rather than cutting back is to shake the world's No. 3 economy from chronic deflation and a strong currency, which hurts Japan's exporters by making their products more expensive overseas.

Abe's latest popularity rating of 71 percent indicates wide public support for "Abenomics," the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said last week. The nation previously went through six straight one-year leaders.

The economic issues in the Obama-Abe meeting were to be discussed at a 1:15 p.m. working lunch in the Cabinet Room overlooking the White House Rose Garden, administration officials said.

That meeting was to follow a 12:15 p.m. Oval Office meeting, where Obama and Abe were to talk about security and political issues, especially North Korea, the officials said.

North Korea conducted its third, long-threatened nuclear test 10 days ago. The underground blast, near the same location where the North conducted tests in 2006 and 2009, was larger than the previous two tests, Western measurements indicated.

It came hours after the powerful Politburo of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party demanded additional launches of long-range rockets. Washington considers the long-range-rocket launches a cover for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang successfully launched a long-range rocket in December, putting a satellite into orbit, the first for the impoverished country.

That prompted the United Nations to tighten sanctions and prompted China, North Korea's staunchest defender at the Security Council, to back the sanctions and chide the Kim Jong Un regime.

White House National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Russel told reporters, "Obviously, out of necessity, [Obama and Abe] will talk about North Korea -- the recent events and the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region."

Other topics expected to come up in the Oval Office meeting include maritime security issues, in light of fierce competing territorial claims by Japan and China in the East China and South China seas, and global hot spots including Iran, Afghanistan, North Africa and "related counter-terrorism questions," Russel said.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013

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