WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump intends to nominate businessman William Hagerty as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan, the White House said on Thursday.
Hagerty is a Tennessee native who founded a private equity firm, Hagerty Peterson. He spent several years in Japan with the Boston Consulting Group management consultancy and later served in the White House of former President George H.W. Bush.
If his nomination is approved by the U.S. Congress, he will replace Caroline Kennedy, who held the position from 2013 until January.
Japan is a key U.S. security ally in Asia in the face of a rising China and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first world leader to visit Trump after his Nov. 8 election victory. The two then held summit talks in Washington and Florida in February.
However, Trump has criticized Japan, along with China and Germany, for having large trade imbalances with the United States and has worried Tokyo by calling on allies to pay more for their defense.
Trump also disappointed Japan by withdrawing the United States from a 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact that was the main economic pillar of former President Barack Obama's "pivot" of U.S. focus to Asia.
Trump and Abe agreed last month to launch a bilateral economic dialogue, which is due to start next month, to discuss issues such as macroeconomic policies, trade and infrastructure investment, but friction is likely over autos and agriculture.
This month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Tokyo and underscored the important of the alliance with Japan and of working together to counter the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
Koichi Hori, the chairman of consulting firm Dream Incubator Inc and a former president of Boston Consulting in Japan, who worked with Hagerty in the early 1990s, described him to Reuters in January as a pragmatist who might not always toe Trump's conservative line on trade.
Japanese companies play a key role in the U.S. economy, employing more than 800,000 American workers. They contributed $78 billion to U.S. exports in 2014, according to U.S. figures.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Malera and Michael Perry)