Japan has flattered Trump but Xi gets the red carpet next

Donald Trump loves to be flattered, so he must have been delighted with the abject pandering he received on his recent visits to Japan and the United Kingdom.

The Japanese were the first to roll out the red carpet. President Trump enjoyed a round of golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a trip to see the Sumo wrestlers and a meeting with Emperor Naruhito.

Japan’s business elite gave him an especially warm welcome and he flattered them in return. According to the Nikkei, he called them “the greatest business leaders in the world.”

Mr Trump has a special place in his heart for Masayoshi Son – the boss of SoftBank – whom he received with a warm embrace.

Mr Trump urged Mr Son and the other business leaders to increase their investment in the United States.

Divided loyalties

However, Softbank and the other companies also have extensive business interests in China, so that leaves them mixed loyalties. Even if they are inclined to be pro-American, they don’t want to upset the Chinese and are therefore concerned about Mr Trump’s burgeoning trade war with China.

China’s President Xi Jinping will travel to Tokyo later this month and the Japanese will warmly welcome him, just as they have welcomed President Trump.

The Times newspaper noted in an editorial: “It would not be wise of Mr Abe to goad Mr Trump on further against China, even though the temptation is to try to use this as a way of glossing over Japan’s own difficulties with trade imbalances with the United States. A trade war on a global scale would be disastrous and Japan would not be immune.”

Royal welcome

In London, Mr Trump met business leaders at a breakfast hosted by Prime Minister Theresa May and the Queen’s son, the Duke of York.

Mr Trump offered a free trade deal between Britain and the US following the Brexit and claimed it would more than replace what Britain might lose from its loss of trade with Europe.

The Director of the British Chamber of Commerce Adam Marshall was not convinced.

He told the BBC: “Trade with the US trade accounts for about 15 percent of the UK’s total world trade and European trade is about three times that size. So British business are quite clear that they can already trade quite successfully with the US but they’re really worried about their trade with Europe.”

The US view

In America itself, Mr Trump seems to have maintained the support of many leading business figures, despite his disruptive approach.

James Lewis from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told the BBC “people like the tax cuts and they like parts of the trade war, as well as the general direction of the economy. Most American companies think they are doing pretty well, despite all the irritations and the disturbances.”

A strong US economy – as well as a stable security alliance – are crucially important to both Japan and the United Kingdom.

For now, their leaders have decided that flattering Donald Trump furthers those goals, so they put on a big smile, sometimes through gritted teeth.

When he flies home though, there’s time to reflect that both countries’ relationships with the United States are significantly unbalanced politically and under Trump, somewhat precarious.