Next U.S. ambassador Hagerty 'indispensable' for stronger bilateral ties: Japan firms
WASHINGTON -- Sources close to the U.S. operations of Japanese firms are calling President-elect Donald Trump's likely choice for ambassador to Japan William Hagerty "indispensable for strengthening Japan-U.S. ties."
Hagerty, a Tennessean and the director of appointments in Trump's presidential transition team, is said to be a part of the president-elect's trusted inner circle, as well as sympathetic to the pro-free trade views of the Republican mainstream. He is also close to Tennessee Sen. Robert Corker, who was considered for secretary of state in Trump's Cabinet and who is thought to have brought Hagerty into the Trump camp. Previously, Hagerty had backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's Republican presidential nomination run.
Major Japanese firms including Nissan Motor Co., Bridgestone Corp., and Denso Corp. have factories in Tennessee, and Japan is the largest foreign investor in the state. As such, some insiders believe Hagerty in fact requested the ambassadorial posting to Japan. A member of the Japan-U.S. Business Council, Hagerty visited Japan in September last year.
Trump, who campaigned on an "America First" slogan during the election campaign, hailed SoftBank Group Corp. President Masayoshi Son's promise during a December meeting at Trump Tower to create 50,000 new jobs in the U.S. It appears that the coming appointment of Hagerty -- with his detailed knowledge of Japanese companies' American investments -- as ambassador to Japan is intended to stimulate further Japanese and other foreign investment in the U.S.
Trump stated in August that the post of U.S. ambassador to Japan was extremely important because the two countries had to negotiate, and that the U.S. needed someone very sharp in the position. Hagerty isn't just friendly to Japan, but Trump is likely expecting him to be ready to push Japan for concessions on trade and other bilateral concerns.
Hagerty already has one notable success in this area, spending eight years negotiating to move a Japanese consulate from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Nashville, Tennessee. However, his ability to deal with bilateral security and diplomatic issues is untested.