NEW YORK, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Upholding multilateral trade partnerships are a priority for Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly late Tuesday.
In a set of remarks that focused overwhelmingly on economic cooperation and the benefits of trade, Abe, who faces potentially tough negotiations with the United States, said his government would do its "very best to strengthen the free trade system."
Abe, who met with U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday at Trump Tower, appeared to differ with Trump, and his earlier rejection of "globalism" and depiction of trade as the problem, not the solution, to challenges facing the world's largest economy.
"We believe that trade must be fair and reciprocal," Trump said before the General Assembly Tuesday morning, when he also disparaged China for unfair trade practices. "The United States will not be taken advantage of any longer...we are systematically renegotiating broken and bad trade deals."
The Trump administration has not ruled out imposing tariffs on Japanese automobiles as it sets out to address the $69 billion trade deficit with Japan.
Abe, who was recently re-elected as head of Japan's ruling party, said his country has a responsibility to uphold multilateral economic cooperation.
"This is because after the war Japan itself was a nation that enjoyed remarkable growth, basking in the advantages of trade as the beneficiary of a free economic system," Abe said Tuesday.
The Japanese prime minister added Japan's development was followed by an economic "takeoff" in neighboring Asian countries, and that his country made "vast investments" in the region within an "international economic system that is rules-based, free and open."
"Japan now has taken on the mission of imparting to the world the benefits of trade," Abe said, adding he would make "all-out efforts" toward negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP.
"This will give rise to an enormous free trade area in East Asia," Abe said, adding trade relations with the United States have allowed Japanese firms to create employment for 856,000 Americans.
In his remarks Abe also called for the resolution of the abduction issue, which could be "resolved" through a "new start" that would include a direct meeting with Kim Jong Un.
"I am determined to make this a reality," he said, referring to Japanese abductees still believed to be in North Korea.
Kim and Abe have not held a summit in 2018.