• Japanese PM Abe to play golf with President at the Post Mansion Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach

    By Anna Wilding on February 9, 2017

    Photo: Creative Commons Licensing

    WASHINGTON, DC (Herald de Paris) —  It is not every day that a seated US President conducts part of an official visit on the golf course, but that appears to be the par for the course in the new administration, setting a new precedent with the visit of Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, this weekend.  President Trump is personally hosting the Prime Minister to a weekend at the former Marjorie Merriweather Post mansion, Mar-a Lago, this coming weekend in Palm Beach, and golf is on the card.  When Trump won the election in November, Prime Minster Abe visited President Trump in New York and presented the then President-Elect with an exclusive Honma Beres S-05 driver.

    If there is any concern by the current administration in the White House on the optics of such a gesture, the White House is certainly not letting on. It is not unusual for President’s to play with golf partners around the world – indeed, President Obama could often be seen strutting the golf course while on holiday in Hawaii with former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.  What is unusual is when it is wrapped up in an official visit on a golf course one owns.

    It possibly raises questions of whether new protocols are expected to be put in place, given the recent public outcry over the question of emoluments and the ongoing pubic debate in the United States about business conflicts within the Trump family and the United States presidency.  The fact is, for the first time in modern history, a President does own resorts, and golf is popular game – in particular in a country like Japan where golf course memberships are at a premium.

    In regular business, this would be par for the course.  Similar to taking a corporate or potential client to your boxed seats at a baseball or basketball game.  However, in the course of Presidency, and the head of the federal government, does this raise legitimate questions, given the trade of gifts of golf clubs and weekends on the golf course?  One thing it certainly is, is transparent.  We know where both leaders are this weekend and we know exactly how this deal went down.

    In a phone conference with the White House earlier today, a Senior Administration Official stated that the American President, “Is placing importance on the Asia Pacific region,” and wishing to strengthen the region further. The official went on to add, “America is great because of our alliances.” Japan and the USA comprise 30% of the world’s Gross Domestic Products.

    President Trump pulled out of the TPP weeks ago, but stressed that he intends to build bilateral agreements in the region. One on one, agreements with each country ensuring that America gets a, ‘Better deal.” It will be some time before we know what those deals are, and whether they will be, in fact, stronger than the now-defunct TPP deal. President Trump has already spoken with key allies and long term or strategic trading partners in the region – Japan, Korea, Australia, and with New Zealand’s new Prime Minister, Bill English.

    Prime Minister Abe is only the second head of government to visit President Trump.

    Ostensibly, Abe comes to the White House to showcase a five-point plan which shows how Japan can work with the US to generate 700,000 new U.S. jobs. Certainly of value to US, at present. However, in 2016 Japan scored an extremely profitable $68.9 billion trade surplus with America. President Trump will have to utilize all his business savvy to negotiate a trade deal which keeps Japan happy and allows for a greater profit for the US from its trading partner. Japan does not currently tax American car imports to Japan, and this is one area that has and will remain subject to intense negotiations on not just the tariffs, but the rules governing them.

    Anna Wilding is Chief White House Correspondent for the Herald de Paris, and an award-winning filmmaker.

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