Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Hi. Thank you everyone for joining us today. We’re also very grateful to Ambassador Hagerty for giving us some time after a very busy couple of days with President Trump in Japan.
Ambassador Hagerty is happy to take your questions about the president’s stop in Japan. He joined — he was sworn in as the 30thambassador to Japan on July 27th, 2017. Prior to his nomination, Ambassador Hagerty served as the Director of Presidential Appointments for the 2016 Trump Presidential Transition Team while on a leave of absence from a private equity investment firm, Hagerty Peterson & Company, that he was a founder and managing director for.
And with that, I will turn it over to Ambassador Hagerty for an opening statement, and we’ll move to Q&A. And, again, this is an on-the-record briefing. Thank you. And thank you, Ambassador Hagerty, for doing this.
Ambassador Hagerty: Mary Beth, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with all of you today, and I can’t tell you how excited I am and optimistic I am about the president’s visit to Asia having just had him here for the past three days. I said good-bye to him at the airport this morning, and he left with a great sense of optimism as he flew onward to South Korea.
The — the first three days of his visit here marked a beginning of the most extensive visit that the president’s taken in Asia. I think that underscores the United States and the president’s commitment to this region from a national security standpoint and, very importantly, from an economic standpoint.
Indeed, his presence here also underscores the great fondness that he feels for the great leaders of the area. He and Prime Minister Abe have built a tremendous working relationship.
That was underscored during this visit by a number of events that the — that the two leaders conducted together. They played a game of golf with one of the most famous golfers in the world, Matsuyama. They had wonderful weather, by the way. And I think everyone had a — had a remarkably good day doing that, but, also, it was a great time for them to talk one-on-one about a variety of issues that included a resolve to denuclearize the North Korean Peninsula; our resolve to deepen our bilateral economical relationships; and our resolve to become even more active in creating free and open Indo-Pacific Region.
The president spent time with his wife Melania meeting with the emperor and the empress of Japan. We did a number of events with business people here in the area, again, underscoring our interest in seeing more economic activity in the region, more American companies conducting trade here, exporting to the region; and also to encourage more foreign direct investment into the United States.
The president had a great connection with the business leaders here, and I think that – that will underscore an ongoing effort in a — in a number of ties that are being built here to deepen our bilateral economic relationship with Japan, but importantly to establish some new foundations for broader economic participation in the region.
Later this afternoon in my residence we will sign an MOU that will help build infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific Region together in partnership with Japan. The president is very optimistic about that potential, as is Prime Minister Abe, in terms of extending our — our partnership with the other countries in this region and making certain that commerce flows freely, and that we are deeply engaged.
With respect to the – the president’s visit with the military, again, that was deepening encouraging. Both US and Japanese military were present for an overwhelming reception that they gave President Trump upon his arrival. And during his conversations with Prime Minister Abe, the president again reinforced his commitment to enhancing Japan’s defence capabilities and provide the most advanced defence equipment that we have available to the Japanese.
Given the increasing menace of the North Korean Regime, the security challenges that they present to the entire region, I think the President and the Prime Minister are continually aligning their viewpoint in terms of the need to be capable, agile, and ready to respond with the full range of defence capability should they be required.
Also, I think, very interestingly the President and First Lady met with the families of — of abductees, Japanese abductees by North Korea. I joined them in that meeting, and — and — and Prime Minister Abe and his wife also joined in that meeting; but it was very touching to hear the stories of the families whose children and loved ones had been lost by the abduction of the North Korean Regime. One woman had even returned from North Korea in hopes that she would see her family who had — her mother was still retained by the North Koreans. I think at — at a very human level the President was touched by this, but also at a broader level it underscores the horrible human rights record of the North Korean Regime.
The meeting itself also was geared very much toward sending a message that the United States is looking for balanced trade and greater market access from Japan. We are taking specific steps to enhance our cooperation in areas such as space, cyber technology, or more trade in greater foreign direct investment; but, on the whole, I — I think the President left very optimistic that the opportunities before America and Asia could not be better.
And I am very optimistic that he’s going to have a great set of meetings in South Korea. He’s built a very strong relationship with President Xi in China. I think he’s looking forward to that visit and finding new opportunities for us to strengthen our relationship with China.
He will move on to a — the conference in Vietnam where we see a number of opportunities there. He’ll come back through Manila on his way out and — and meet with President Duterte there, and then back to the United States on what will be the longest overseas visit that the President’s conducted since becoming the President of the United States.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Thank you so much, sir. And with that, we’ll open up to questions.
Question: Yeah, good day. Thanks for the opportunity, Ambassador, and thanks for the briefing. I’ve just got a trade question for you.
Japan and Australia are expected to push for a TPP 11 revised multilateral deal when they — one they made in Vietnam for APEC later this week. I think they regard it as the — the two most forward leaning countries on that — that kind of revised version of the agreement. I just want to know based on the last couple of days and of your — your general understanding: What is the President and his team’s attitude towards a new TPP like that without the US? Would it welcome it or does it have concerns about it? Would it, for instance, see it as a potential complication for its own efforts to pursue whatever — what he regards as a more balanced trade relationship with a country like Japan?
Ambassador Hagerty: David, I think I’ll put this into context, because I think it’s a — it requires a bit of clarification about what a unique environment 2016 was in the United States and in the — the election that took place there.
The TPP Agreement was — was broadly viewed by the electorate as something unpopular in the United States. Both the Democrat and Republican candidates determined during the course of the election that they would not pursue the TPP. Of course, President Trump won the election and followed through with his campaign promise, but that promise had also been made by his Democrat counterpart.
The view in the United States is that these need — these trade deals need to be balanced and they need to be reciprocal. And they also need to be enforceable. I think one of the strongest issues that the president has had with these agreements in the multilateral context is the difficulty in enforcement.
So the President’s been very clear that we are not going to pursue this agreement now or in the future, and our goal is to move in a bilateral basis, which we’ve undertaken that — the — the — the beginning effort already with Japan. And I’m very optimistic that that’s going to produce strong results.
I attended the second bilateral dialogue that we had in October this last month in Washington, DC between Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Aso and our Vice President Pence. There we enumerated a number of issues that we were going to work on, but I see great potential there, particularly working on sustaining our approach to innovation in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. Japan and the United States are leaders there, and we are – we are making certain that we make every effort to continue that leadership role.
We’re looking at what had been persistent trade irritants on a bilateral basis, whether it be with agriculture or automobiles or a variety of other issues, but we can deal with that on a bilateral basis. Importantly, though, we are also looking at opportunities. As I mentioned, we are going to sign an MOU today at my residence here in Tokyo between the overseas private investment corp in the United States and its equivalent here in Japan. The goal of that is to provide more infrastructure into the Indo-Pacific Region.
And I think what we will do through that effort is project our economic influence and our desire to have greater commerce and trade in a way that facilitates the infrastructure necessary to doing that — or supporting infrastructure necessary to do that. So I see more economic activity coming from these meetings. With respect to the TPP11, we have not taken a position on that, but we are very eager to work out the best possible trade deals for the United States of America and our partners here in the region, again, the President’s view in on a bilateral basis.
Question: Thank you. Can I quickly follow up on that?
Ambassador Hagerty: Certainly.
Question: Thank you. Do you see it possible that the — that the Japan-US bilateral approach and a — a TPP simply involving the 11 other countries can proceed perfectly well in parallel next to each other without interfering with each other?
Ambassador Hagerty: I don’t think we have any intention for it to interfere. I can be clear about that. I — I — I’m not in a position to predict how it’s going to evolve because these agreements are always difficult to predict, but there’s certainly no intention for there to be a conflict.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Thank you so much, Ambassador Hagerty. We’ll move on to the next question.
Question: Thank you, Ambassador, for this opportunity. [Inaudible] I’m based in Tokyo. I’m Japan’s correspondent for Channel News Asia, which is in — based in Singapore.
My question is regarding China’s maritime expansion. I was wondering if China’s maritime expansion was discussed during the meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Abe, and whether President Trump will be addressing this issue to President Xi when he visits Beijing later this week?
Ambassador Hagerty: The President and Prime Minister talked more broadly about our desire to create a free and open Indo-Pacific Region. And I think you’ll see more of that discussion occur during the course of the President’s visit. And there the United States is more interested in creating more infrastructure in this region; more energy partnerships in this region; and, again, seeing more activity in the form of — of — of free and fair commerce in the Indo-Pacific Region.
So, indeed, I think that the — that the President will continue to talk about this as he moves from South Korea to China. I’m sure that he and President Xi will have discussions about that, but that the conversations that took place here in Tokyo were at a broader level in terms of the free and open Indo-Pacific Region as opposed to the level of specificity that you suggest.
Question: I see. Okay. Thank you so much.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: It seems we’re having some technical difficulties. Why don’t we go on to the next question and then we’ll come back.
Question: Hello? [Inaudible] from South Morning Post with Hong Kong. My question is about whether the — President Trump and Prime Minister had discussions about the quartet. There was some talk before the meeting in Tokyo that — that Prime Minister Abe might broach the — the revival of the quart a decade ago. And — and that has sparked some concern in Beijing about whether the four countries coming together [Inaudible] the use of the term “Indo-Pacific,” that is also our attention about why [Inaudible] use this term. Why the State Department started using this term.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Can we clarify your question? Your first question was — could you — could you please restate your first questions? You — you were breaking up. You said about the quartet?
Question: Yes, about the — the quadrilateral [Inaudible] between the US, Japan, Australia and India, Prime Minister Abe suggested that he would broach with President Trump on — on , you know, reviving this meeting between four countries and if the Ambassador could give any indication on whether the topic was broached.
Ambassador Hagerty: Okay. I understand the question now. I was having a hard time — you’re — you’re breaking up a bit.
When we talked about the Indo-Pacific Region, the Prime Minister and President Trump talked about that. We mentioned a number of countries that are involved in that region, but we did not mention it in the context of a specific quadrilateral structure or framework that would be imposed. I think right now the President is here to listen, to have conversations, to talk about this concept. And I think that will further clarify itself as he moves all the way through to the conference in Vietnam. I would expect more definition around that at the end of this trip, and it’s hard to tell you ta — at this point where that’s going to fall out in terms of the actual structure or process in terms of how it will proceed.
I’ll say this: During his first stop here in Japan, we — we have made very specific moves to support that direction in terms of the MOU that I mentioned that will be signed today, and also a series of energy partnerships that we’re looking at to do with Japan to provide access to more energy — more US energy and more Japan technology — more energy Japan technology into the broader region.
Question: Thank you.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Did you have a follow-up question? Did you have a follow-up question?
Question: No, I don’t. Thanks. I’m sorry that I’m breaking up.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Okay.
Question: Hello, yes. Ambassador, this is my question to you: What is the significance of the South China Sea [Inaudible] and does it probably overshadow [Inaudible]? Hello?
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Hi. So just to confirm, your question is about South China Sea and whether that will overshadow the North Korean issue during the President’s trip?
Ambassador Hagerty: I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get the — could you repeat the question one more time, Mary Beth, your understanding of the question. It just was not clear.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Sure. If I’m correct in understanding, she’s asking whether issues surrounding South China Sea will overshadow the President’s efforts in terms of North Korea; is that correct?
Question: I mean, the – the South China Sea dispute [Inaudible] Donald Trump’s visit to Asia and does it — will overshadow [Inaudible]
Ambassador Hagerty: Is that the opposite, Mary Beth, or what you just –
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Yes, it is the opposite.
Ambassador Hagerty: Okay. I’m sorry, it’s because the sound coming from the question was hard to under — I — I think I’ve got it.
So the answer is the discussion around the North Korean Peninsula has been the primary point of discussion between the Prime Minister and — and President Trump. They are both very concerned about the increasing threat and the actions of the North Korean Regime, and they’re both very determined to put the maximum amount of economic and political pressure on the regime to achieve the denu — denuclearization of the peninsula. So that has been a — a key priority.
The South China Sea is always an area of interest for us. We’re interested in the free and open access to the air, the sea and — and transit. We want to see commerce operate freely there. And we want to maintain our presence according to international law in every respect, but I would have to say that the — the headlines certainly have been dominated by the situation in North Korea, but our interests in the South China Sea, Japan’s interest in the South China Sea, remain strong and relevant.
Question: Yes. Thank you for you time, sir.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Thank you. I think we have time for one more question all right. It looks like we’ve answered everyone’s questions for Ambassador Hagerty — oops, one more. Hello?
Question: Hello, [Inaudible]. And I’ve got a question for the ambassador. Yesterday President Trump urged Japan to buy made in USA military equipment for antimissile defense. So has Japan expressed any intention of buying specific military equipment from the US to shoot down missiles from the North Korea — from North Korea yet, or is that an indication that US may deploy [Inaudible] defense to Japan? Thank you.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Specific –
Ambassador Hagerty: Go — go ahead, Mary Beth.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: I would just like to confirm. So is your question is whether has Japan mentioned specific purchases or whether they had talked about deploying that to Japan; correct?
Question: Yes, about whether has Japan has any intentions of buying — specific intentions of buying American antimissile defence equipment, and also did they talk about the deployment of [Inaudible] area to Japan — to Japan?
Ambassador Hagerty: Oaky. I — I understand the question, and the answer is actually quite simple. The President articulated that we strongly support an increase in Japanese government defence spending in order to enhance their capabilities and, importantly, to off the interoperability of US systems. We want to make available the most advanced technologies that we have available so as to increase the – the interoperability [Inaudible] in this region.
We did not spe — we did not discuss specific platforms, but we did discuss the need to optimize our systems and to look at the — the situation on a holistic basis to make certain that the Japanese budgetary expenditures are done in a manner that works in an imple — interoperable basis with the United States.
Question: Okay. Thank you.
Ambassador Hagerty: You’re welcome.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: All right. Well, I want to take a moment and thank Ambassador Hagerty for taking the time to talk with — with us given especially his heavy — very busy schedule these last few days, and it sounds like he’s still got a couple more things on his agenda before he can take a break. Thank you all for joining this call. We’re hoping to have other readouts for you available as President Trump continues. So thank you so much, Ambassador Hagerty. We really appreciate you taking the time today.
Ambassador Hagerty: Mary Beth, I’m very optimistic about the potential of this trip and the potential to strengthen relationships throughout the region. The President left Japan this morning feeling very good about the business that he has lined up, and I think we’re going to see a terrific set of economic ties and political ties strengthened while – while he is on this trip.
Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Thank you, sir, and thank you-all for joining us today.