Japan's PM defends its automakers against U.S. import probe

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 26, 2018. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday he would seek to convince President Donald Trump of the crucial role his country’s automakers play in boosting the U.S. economy.

The Trump administration decided last week to begin a national security investigation into auto imports that could lead to new U.S. tariffs similar to those imposed on imported steel and aluminum.

“Japanese automakers have created jobs and made huge contributions to the U.S. economy,” Abe told parliament, when asked by a lawmaker how Japan would respond to the U.S. move.

“As a country that prioritizes a rule-based, multilateral trade system, Japan believes that any steps taken on trade must be in line with World Trade Organization rules,” he said.

The number of cars Japanese automakers produce in the United States is double the number it exports to the country, Abe said.

Abe also said Tokyo will continue to urge Washington to join the multi-lateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“Japan has explained to the United States its stance that TPP is the best format for both countries. We will continue to talk with the United States based on this view,” he said.

Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Sam Holmes