Society | Jul 18

Japan’s $2.2 trillion cost of befriending Donald Trump

As political bets go, the one Japan’s Shinzo Abe made on Donald Trump in 2016 is proving to be a mistake of historic proportions.

No world leader was quicker in getting to Trump Tower in New York to congratulate the U.S. president-elect on a victory few saw coming. Nine days after Trump’s shock win, there was Abe on Nov. 17, reassuring a fearful world not to worry, he’d be a “trustworthy leader.”

From the start, Prime Minister Abe’s visit was a comedy of errors. Japanese diplomats are obsessive sticklers for protocol. Trump’s people were slow to set a time or any choreography for his first post-election tête-à-tête with a world leader. Japanese officialdom was livid that Trump brought his daughter Ivanka along.

The real error, though, was Abe’s effort to normalize a U.S. leader who’s since taken a wrecking ball to the global economic order Abe’s team hoped to preserve 44 months ago. That order gives Japan a seat at the Group of Seven nations table not accorded to Beijing. And at a cost to Tokyo, so far, of more than $2.2 trillion and counting.

The amount referenced here is how much Abe’s government is having to spend to revive the economy. To be fair, Japan would be pumping stimulus into the economy even if Trump’s White House hadn’t so spectacularly botched its Covid-19 response. But the magnitude of the spending, about 40% of gross domestic product, is a direct result of Trump’s failure and the global financial repercussions.


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