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Japan Showers Trump with Flattery


A Major geopolitical drama may soon be underway. Japan is already preparing for the new era if Donald Trump retakes the White House in 2024.

The Japanese are buttering up Trump big time, hiring his inner circle lobbyists and calling him an “effective leader.” Why? They want to sway the Donald by acting as a loyal frenemy who supports America First.

Japan is betting big on a Trump comeback to align them closer with the US economically and militarily. The flattery is already overflowing, with Japan praising Trump’s unmatched leadership.

This is a strategic play to make themselves essential to Trump’s vision and get favourable trade agreements. Japan’s all in on reestablishing ties with a second Trump presidency.

The message is clear – you stick by Donald, he’ll stick by you. So Japan is rushing to get on Trump’s good side before he makes his big return to power.

They’re ready to join forces in advancing Trump’s mission to put America before all else. And in return, Trump would back Japan as a top priority ally. Pretty crafty moves!

This could lead to some wild outcomes in the near future. But for now, Japan is laying the groundwork for an era where Trump is back on top calling the shots. They want to be right by his side this time.

The Japanese government has been strategically bolstering its lobbying efforts in Washington DC, casting a wide net of advisers as the 2024 election looms nearer. With the real possibility of Donald Trump returning to power, Japan aims to be fully prepared to navigate his unpredictable policymaking.

The Japanese Embassy sharply increased its number of contracted lobbying firms last year, reaching a total of 20 active lobby groups. This intensive outreach has led to an over 80% boost in spending since 2015, the year before Trump’s first election.

One notable firm brought on board is Ballard Partners, headed by Brian Ballard, reputedly one of Trump’s most prominent lobbyists. Ballard and Trump go years back, and his sway with the former president is said to be substantial. For wary nations, he provides insights into the nature of Trump’s leadership.

In interviews, Ballard has openly characterised Trump as prioritising American power above all. Allies that support this worldview will be rewarded, while those failing to assist US interests may feel Trump’s wrath. For Japan, this signals the need to actively back Trump’s priorities to remain in his good graces.

Indeed, Japan has already been mobilising outreach to Trump’s inner circle, intent on building strong personal ties. A favourable relationship with Trump could reap economic and trade advantages. So Japan turns to soft power, praise and lobbying prowess, hoping to make themselves an indispensable ally.

This ongoing cultivation of access and influence is but one indicator of Japan’s growing concerns. With Trump potentially at America’s helm again, the unpredictable rollercoaster of his foreign policy looms ominously. Japan aims to buckle up for the ride by securing their standing with Trump well in advance. Their full court press of lobbying may prove wise if Trump returns to the White House.

Unlike Japan’s active outreach to the Trump camp, South Korea has taken a very different approach – avoiding engagement with Trumpworld. President Yoon has directed the embassy not to connect with Trump associates, likely to prevent straining ties with the current Biden administration.

Whereas Japan is bolstering lobbying efforts, South Korea has actually decreased spending in this area over the past year as they steer clear of Trump ties. The contrast shows the two nations differ significantly in their strategies for handling a potential Trump return.

Japan’s recent experience with the Nippon Steel deal further highlights why lobbying is crucial for them in Washington. Despite spending $14 billion acquiring U.S. Steel, Nippon failed to engage American stakeholders like labour unions and local lawmakers beforehand.

The result was vocal opposition asserting the iconic steelmaker was being handed over to foreigners. This backlash demonstrates Japan’s need to properly lobby US interests to smoothen relations and business deals.

Between the Nippon lesson and South Korea’s avoidance of Trumpworld, Japan is making the strategic choice to actively lobby Trump’s orbit – and spend big doing so. They aim to convey the right messages to sway Trump’s stances in their favour.

Gaining influence may curb Trump’s transactional tendencies and prevent him from undercutting Japan to bargain with adversaries like China. For Japan, lobbying appears the wise route to brace for Trump’s potential second act.

Japan faces immense economic headaches currently, with a weak national currency plaguing its global standing. This has motivated Japan’s outreach to Trump, hoping to stabilise currency and trade through a fortified US-Japan alliance.

Trump’s first term showed his disinterest in traditional diplomacy, instead prioritising transactional deals benefitting America. This worries Japan, as Trump could easily leverage their economic woes for negotiating power.

To hedge risks, Japan is getting in Trump’s good graces preemptively through lobbying and strategic messaging. A strong personal connection may make Trump think twice before using Japan’s currency weakness as a bargaining chip with adversaries.

If re-elected, forecasting Trump’s policies gets murky. Would he moderate to secure legacy achievements? Or double down on the unpredictable chaos that defined his first term? Opinions widely vary.

Some believe Trump would take a business-like approach to deliver concrete results in areas like security and the economy. Others expect more turmoil, as Trump dismantles institutional norms by firing civil servants and appointing loyalists.

Japan’s view leans toward the latter outcome. They remain anxious that an indifferent Trump could hastily cut deals with China without considering allies. This keeps Japan working urgently to sway Trump’s stances before he takes power again.

With much at stake, Japan is pulling out all stops lobbying Trumpworld. A solid alliance with Trump seems Japan’s best insurance if he returns to the White House for a second radically unpredictable stint.

Yet there is another point of view in Japan coming from Masafumi Ishii, Japan’s former ambassador to Indonesia. Ishii thinks banking on Trump securing nothing. The moment it benefits him, Trump could easily sell out Japan to cut a deal with China. He won’t think twice about undercutting Japan if it suits his “America First” agenda.

This so-called “strategy” of lobbying Trump is futile. Trump operates on ego and whims.

Rather than wasting energy on Trump, Japan should reinforce ties with stable allies like Australia and Canada. Together they can advance a sane foreign policy that constrains China constructively, not through provocation.

The smart path is patient coalition-building and pragmatism – not highly leveraged bets on Trump’s deal making fantasies. Japan loses credibility peddling the pretence that Trump offers security. When Trump inevitably turns on allies, Japan will have no one to blame but themselves. 

While Ambassador Ishii’s concerns about Trump are understandable, dismissing efforts to engage Trump as futile may be premature. There are reasons to believe robust ties with a Trump-led America could still benefit Japan.

Casting Trump as a totally unstable actor who cannot be dealt with constructively could reflect a degree of bias. His “America First” policies often play to his base rather than indicating disloyalty to allies.

And Trump has shown he responds well to flattery and attention. So Japan’s overtures may very well resonate by stroking his ego. If so, strong personal ties could certainly influence Trump’s unilateral policymaking.

It’s also simplistic to assume Trump will inevitably betray Japan. His administration did strengthen areas like defence cooperation with Japan. So there are signs that productive diplomacy is possible.

Ruling out Trump could reduce Japan’s leverage precisely when they need it most. Alienating him risks animosity, threatening trade links vital to Japan’s weak economy.

Moreover, stable allies like Australia still recognize the need for pragmatically engaging Trump’s administration, despite agreements in other areas.

So while Ishii is right to raise concerns, Japan may actually be wisely pragmatic in covering bases with Trump outreach. Dismissing this as fantasy could leave them isolated when Trump’s second term dawns. An openness to his positive potential as an ally seems prudent.

In the end, only time will tell whether Japan’s intensive lobbying efforts aimed at developing close ties with Trump will prove beneficial or could backfire if he returns to the presidency.

On one hand, Japan may have strategic insights into potentially aligning with Trump’s “America First” stance in ways that could advance Japan’s interests. Perhaps a strongly cultivated personal relationship and shrewd messaging could mitigate Trump’s transactional tendencies.

However, others argue dealing extensively with such an unpredictable actor has inherent risks. Trump has shown willingness to disregard allies when it suits his political needs. So no amount of lobbying can guarantee his loyalty or temper his capricious decision-making.

For now, experts following this situation will be observing to see how Japan’s diplomatic wager unfolds. There is healthy scepticism about whether embracing Trump so vigorously offers substantial advantages versus exposure. The consequences, either positive or negative, will become evident if Trump ultimately regains power in 2024.

In the interim, analysts continue to debate whether Japan is making wise calculated moves or taking undue risks by staking too much on Trump’s potential second term. Striking the right balance with such an unconventional figure remains a challenge with no simple solutions.

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