The White House has disclosed that President Donald Trump will personally foot the bill for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's stay at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The two world leaders are scheduled to discuss economic relations during the weekend over golf at the president's retreat.
On Feb. 9, a White House official told inquiring reporters that Abe's trip to Mar-a-Lago would not violate ethics rules because the president himself would personally pay for his accommodations, The Hill reports.
The official said that Abe's stay at Mar-a-Lago will be "a personal gift ... something the president is doing for the prime minister."
Cutting the check for Abe's accommodations gives Trump a way to avoid a potential conflict of interest. The Constitution forbids presidents from personally profiting from foreign countries. If Japan had paid for Abe's stay in Mar-a-Lago, a resort that Trump owns, then the president would be in violation of the Constitution.
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Abe is scheduled to arrive in Washington D.C. on Feb. 9 and then meet with the president at the White House on Feb. 10. The two world leaders will discuss economic relations during a planned game of golf at Mar-a-Lago on Feb. 11.
The meeting follows a recent burst of tension between the two countries after Trump took to social media to blast the Japanese-based car manufacturer Toyota for planning to establish a plant in Mexico.
"Toyota Motor said [it] will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S.," Trump tweeted out on Jan. 5. "NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax."
The president's tweet rankled Japanese officials, who have asserted that Toyota's plant in Mexico will not cost the U.S. jobs and that the Japanese auto industry already supports 1.5 million American jobs, CNN Money reports.
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Japanese finance minister Taro Aso expressed bafflement at Trump's comments, suggesting that it was "questionable whether the new president understands ... how many vehicles Toyota produces in the U.S."
Political scientist Koichi Nakano of Tokyo's Sophia University believes that Trump's social media statements have made it difficult for U.S. allies and foreign businesses to make decisions.
"Trump tweets something and the whole conditions are going to change," Nakano told NPR. "So we are getting into a situation that is really not accountable."
William Pesek, the editor of Tokyo-based financial newspaper Barron's Asia, believes that Abe's task during his diplomatic trip will be to convince Trump of both the economic and security importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship.
"What Abe has to impress [on] President Trump is basically money, basically jobs," Pesek said. "We in Japan will invest X amount of money in the U.S. as long as you have our back in Asia. You have our back against North Korea, you have our back against China."
Abe has already proposed a $150 billion economic cooperation package for U.S. infrastructure. It remains unclear whether or not Congress would approve of some of the projects included in the package, such as a proposal to build high-speed rail.
Pesek believes that both Trump and Abe are transactional world leaders "and it will be interesting to see the extent to which they can strike deals."
Trump and Abe's scheduled round of golf at Mar-a-Lago could set the tone for the U.S.-Japanese economic relationship for the next four years. Both leaders are golf enthusiasts, with Abe gifting Trump a $3,755 golden golf club shortly after his election victory, according to Newsweek.
There's no word yet on whether Trump will use the golden club when he hits the links with the Japanese prime minister.