Apr 28, 2019

Reality check: Trump claims he can strike a trade deal with Japan by May

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe to the White House, April 26. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump says he thinks he could strike a bilateral trade deal with Japan by the time he visits Tokyo in May. (Trump made this prediction during a Friday meeting at the White House with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.)

Reality check: Multiple sources close to the U.S.-Japanese trade talks tell me this is ridiculous spin. Trump's big demand — that the Japanese drop their massive tariffs on U.S. agricultural products — isn't going to happen anytime soon. They say the two sides haven't even agreed on the scope of these trade talks, let alone crafted serious plans for the timing of a possible deal.

  • "Japan is hoping the USMCA and China will continue to preoccupy USTR [the U.S. trade representative] and the White House," said a source close to the Japanese negotiating team. (Translation: They have little interest in a bilateral deal; rather, Abe is indulging Trump and playing for time.)

Between the lines: Abe has no political wiggle room to give Trump what he wants on agriculture without getting significant U.S. concessions in return. Japan's farming lobby is far more powerful than America's — it’s virtually untouchable.

  • Abe already stretched himself to make agricultural concessions for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal, and those benefits have been reallocated to the other TPP countries. He doesn’t have much political capital left.
  • Abe would need to appeal to Japan's legislature to get more farming concessions. Japanese elections are in July, and there's no way he will do anything before then. Even after then, the politics are still very tough.

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and South Korea ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 35 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins