Charles Freeman Charles Freeman
Senior Vice President for Asia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


April 04, 2024


President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida meet at the White House on April 10, marking the first state visit by a Japanese leader to the United States since 2015. Their agenda is full, covering a gamut of security and economic issues. The two leaders will aim to modernize alliance arrangements to boost deterrence amid an increasingly tense security situation in Northeast Asia.

The two leaders will also likely discuss measures to mitigate global trade distortions arising from Chinese industrial overcapacity. In addition, the arrival in Washington of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. of the Philippines on April 11 for trilateral meetings marks an important turn of events, demonstrating the value of integrating regional partners into bilateral alliance discussions. This follows President Biden’s successful trilateral Camp David summit last July with his Japanese and Korean counterparts. 

Why It Matters 

Cementing the progress made at Camp David and under other bilateral agreements will be top of mind for the two leaders, especially given the uncertainties introduced by the U.S. presidential elections this October. President Biden will seek to prove that he can translate progress in the United States’ international relationships into tangible benefits for the American electorate, with a special focus on his key policy issues like climate and restoring America’s manufacturing base for the American working and middle classes. 

For Prime Minister Kishida, this state visit is an opportunity to leverage his diplomatic skills to reignite public and political confidence in his leadership. Mr. Kishida faces an election by September 2024 that will determine whether he can maintain his standing as President of the Liberal Democratic Party, a key party position seen as a prerequisite to the premiership.

Confidence in his administration has dwindled due to a series of mishaps and scandals, so the pressure is on to prove that he can bring home a big win for Japan. Getting a commitment to upgrade the U.S. Forces Japan to an operational command would be one such victory.  

What We Hope to See 

Foreign direct investment in the United States is a major driver of our economic growth, and Japanese firms are among the leaders of the pack in creating high-quality jobs across America. We hope that Prime Minister Kishida will use the state visit to reiterate the positive impacts of Japanese investment in the United States.  

In that regard, President Biden’s stated opposition to Nippon Steel’s bid to acquire U.S. Steel was an unfortunate note to sound prior to Kishida’s visit. The Japanese leader will no doubt press Biden to reverse this position, not without justification. On top of agreeing to honor all existing labor contracts, Nippon Steel has also committed to revitalizing U.S. Steel through new investments in U.S.-based R&D and production operations. It is a classic potential win-win for American national interest. Attempts to politicize this lifeline deal to save U.S. Steel are both inappropriate and counterproductive. 

The Biden Administration’s decision to pause liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permit approvals has had an equally damaging impact to U.S.-Japan relations. Japan relies on U.S. gas to guarantee its energy security while maintaining its embargo on Russian energy. LNG remains a critical tool in the transition to our lower carbon future, and the administration’s decision was a confounding move. The U.S.-Japan Business Council and Japan-U.S. Business Council sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Kishida urging him to raise this key issue with President Biden during their summit. 

The U.S. and Japan share a broad alignment on fostering innovation in critical and emerging technologies, so we hope to see new agreements to support AI and quantum computing, next-generation clean energy, semiconductors, and healthcare innovation, among others. The summit also presents a chance for Japan to take advantage of the U.S.’ diverse ecosystem of defense products and services to augment its capabilities as part of its commitment to raise defense spending to 2% of its GDP. 

The Chamber’s Take 

The U.S.-Japan relationship is at a new high-water mark thanks to the combined efforts of public and private leaders on both sides of the Pacific. This state visit is an important opportunity to reestablish support for longstanding U.S. positions on foreign direct investment, energy, and more. It can also be a venue to forge new frameworks that will enable our countries to adapt to our increasingly dynamic geopolitical environment.

The U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Japan Business Council, together with its Japanese counterpart, laid out a series of recommendations on creating the right conditions for the private sector to reach its potential to deliver innovative solutions to these challenges.  We are at a crucial inflection point, and given the myriad uncertainties and political machinations involved, the summit is an essential event to chart our shared future.  

About the authors

Charles Freeman

Charles Freeman

Charles Freeman, senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been helping companies navigate complex markets in the Asia-Pacific for 25 years. His career included senior stints in government, business, law, and academia, giving him a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities in the world’s most dynamic region.

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