Washington — President Donald Trump pushed Japanese automakers to build more cars in the U.S. during his visit to that country.
Speaking at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Tokyo on Monday, Trump said, “Several Japanese automobile industry firms have been really doing a job. And we love it when you build cars — if you’re a Japanese firm, we love it — try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so.”
He singled out Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. for a recent announcement of plans to build a $1.6 billion joint assembly manufacturing plant in the U.S. that could open in 2021. The Japanese automakers said in August the new facility could create up to 4,000 jobs.
“I must say, Toyota and Mazda — where are you?” Trump said. “That’s big stuff. Congratulations. Come on, let me shake your hand. They’re going to invest $1.6 billion in building a new manufacturing plant, which will create as many as 4,000 new jobs in the United States. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.”
On his first day in office, Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement between 12 nations including Japan. Trump said throughout his campaign that the agreement would hurt the U.S. economy. Officials from Japan want to bring the United States back into the trade pact or create a trade deal between the two nations.
Trump has criticized other internationally owned automakers for selling cars in the U.S. that are built overseas.
In June, he accused South Korean auto companies of selling cars in the U.S. while American carmakers struggle to gain a foothold in South Korea. Speaking at a joint news conference at the White House with newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in on, Trump said, “South Korean companies sell cars in America. American companies should have that same exact privilege on a reciprocal basis, and I’m sure we will be able to work that out.”
Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader, said Japanese automakers and other internationally owned car manufacturers are already building a lot of the vehicles they sell in the U.S. domestically.
“The president doesn’t seem to know that most Japanese automakers make many of their vehicles and parts in the U.S. for sale here,” Krebs said. “In fact some Japanese-brand vehicles have more local content than do some U.S.-brand vehicles.”
Japanese automaker Honda had three models out of the top 10 on Cars.com’s 2017 American-Made Index; its luxury subsidiary Acura had another.
The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, which represents Japanese cars manufacturers like Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Mitsubishi, declined a request for comment on Trump’s remarks in Tokyo.
The organization pointed to a study it released in October that showed that Japanese automakers built nearly 4 million cars in the U.S. in 2016 and supported 1.5 million domestic jobs that were located at 24 manufacturing plants and 43 research and design facilities in 20 states.