TOKYO Japanese companies should use the U.S.-Japan economic dialogue as an opportunity to boost investment in factories in the United States and protect market share, a Japanese government adviser said on Thursday.
Japan should also welcome any opportunity to negotiate a two-way free trade deal to improve relations with one of its most important economic partners, said Motoshige Ito, a member of the government's top advisory panel on economics.
Japan should also offer to buy U.S. shale oil and gas if U.S. President Donald Trump's administration seeks ways to cut its trade deficit, Ito told Reuters in an interview.
"The U.S. market is important, so Japanese companies would naturally consider investing more to protect their position," said Ito, a professor at Gakushuin University.
"The trade relationship has evolved and Japan can't do much to reduce exports. However, Japan can increase U.S. imports, and shale gas would be mutually beneficial."
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence meets Japanese Finance Minister Aso in Tokyo on April 18 for the first U.S.-Japan economic dialogue, a forum Japan proposed to the Trump administration.
Trump, who took office in January on the back of campaign promises to scale back free trade and prevent jobs from going overseas, has sparked concern about a possible reprise of 1980s trade friction that strained U.S.-Japan ties.
Showing how Japanese companies are adapting, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) on Monday said it would spend $1.33 billion in its Kentucky plant, as part of a $10-billion investment plan in the United States over the next five years.
Japanese government officials have said they want to use the talks to sell Japanese infrastructure and buy U.S. shale oil.
Such a strategy could benefit both countries since the Trump administration wants to upgrade U.S. infrastructure and Japan is overly dependent on Middle Eastern crude, Ito said.
(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)