Sidestepping the political difficulties back in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence told Japanese business leaders Wednesday that President Trump is working “around the clock” on tax reform that will benefit Japanese-owned businesses in the U.S.
Speaking at a trade forum in Tokyo, Mr. Pence noted that Japanese companies employ about 839,000 workers in the U.S., including auto manufacturing plants owned by Toyota, Honda and Subaru in his home state of Indiana.
“I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that tax reform is one of our top priorities,” Mr. Pence said. “I don’t have to tell you how complicated the American tax code is and how much harm it does to business investment in our country — at home and, frankly, abroad.”
The vice president said the U.S. corporate tax rate, which averages about 39 percent, is “sadly is one of the highest in the developed world — it’s more than 10 percent higher than the tax rate here in Japan.”
But the administration’s plans for tax reform have been stalled by an inability to repeal and replace Obamacare, which officials say is a necessary budgetary step to make room for tax cuts and a broader tax overhaul. Mr. Pence has been working the phones on his Asia trip, lobbying U.S. lawmakers on a revised health care plan.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this week that the administration’s earlier timetable of getting tax reform through Congress by August was probably too ambitious.
Mr. Trump also scrapped the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade deal that included Japan, the U.S., and 10 other Pacific-rim nations after years of laborious negotiations. A top Japanese official said before Mr. Pence’s visit that Japan might pursue a revised TPP without the U.S.
Mr. Pence instead promoted a three-pronged “dialogue” with Japan on trade focusing on common trade and investment rules, breaking down “barriers” to exporting and promoting cooperation in various economic sectors. The U.S. currently has a $69 billion trade deficit with Japan.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States seeks a stronger and more balanced bilateral trade relationship with Japan,” he said. “Our goal is simple: We seek trade that is both free and fair and benefits both our nations equally.”
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