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Trump Arrives In Japan For G-20 Summit With All Eyes On His Trade Talk With China


President Trump has arrived in Osaka, Japan, where he's attending a summit with leaders of the world's biggest economies. That's the backdrop for a critical conversation this weekend between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. First Trump is meeting with a number of other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and the host of the summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

To find out what's at stake, we're joined by NPR's Scott Horsley. He's in Osaka. And Scott, to start, Trump began his day by meeting with Shinzo Abe. Can you tell us what you learned?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: It appeared to be a cordial meeting. You know, this is Trump's second visit to Japan in just a few weeks. He was here late last month for a state visit, and he spoke fondly today of the sumo wrestling match he attended at that time. Prime Minister Abe has worked hard to build personal ties with President Trump. He was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after the 2016 election. The two men have bonded on the golf course among other things.

That personal relationship, however, doesn't seem to have spared Japan from trouble with the president. Japan steel has been hit by U.S. tariffs. And just before he left Washington, Trump renewed his criticism of the U.S.-Japan defense alliance, which the president sees as unbalanced.

CORNISH: So what are the prospects for the president striking a new trade deal with Japan?

HORSLEY: It is certainly on the agenda. But remember, Audie; one of the first things Trump did when he came into office was pull out of a trade deal with Japan and 10 other countries all around the Pacific Rim. The rest of those countries went ahead with their trade pact, and that's now put U.S. exporters at a big disadvantage. For example, Australia, New Zealand and Canada can now sell beef in Japan at a much lower tariff than the U.S. can.

Trump has also threatened to hit Japan's auto industry with new tariffs if Tokyo doesn't agree to a new trade deal, although today Trump was somewhat more conciliatory. He did acknowledge that Japan has spent a lot of money building plants to build cars in the United States.

CORNISH: This is just the first of a number of meetings that the president is expected to have. What - can you talk about some of the other leaders that he'll be talking with?

HORSLEY: He's going to be talking with Vladimir Putin today. We expect them to talk about Syria, maybe about arms control. Of course any meeting between Trump and Putin is fraught because of Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Earlier this week, Trump snapped at a reporter who asked if he would warn the Russian leader not to meddle in next year's election. Trump said, that's none of your business. The president will also be meeting tomorrow with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and that's just days after the U.N. called for sanctions on the crown prince over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

All of that, Audie, is just a prelude to the big sit-down on Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jingping. No one really expects those two leaders to resolve their trade war in one meeting, but there is a lot of betting that they might at least call a temporary truce, postpone new sanctions on Chinese exports while the two sides go back to the bargaining table.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley reporting to us from Osaka. Scott, safe travels.

HORSLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.