TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) President Akio Toyoda said on Thursday his company had increased its U.S. production in the past three decades, and that the Japanese brand should also be considered as a U.S. manufacturer.
Toyoda’s comment comes as global automakers face pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who has demanded that more cars sold in the United States be made locally to increase jobs and shrink the U.S. trade deficit.
Trump singled out Toyota in a tweet last month, criticizing the plans by Japan’s biggest automaker to build a second plant in Mexico. Since then, Toyota has announced plans to invest $10 billion in its U.S. operations to increase production and create more jobs.
“Things are very different in 2017 than they were in the 1980s. Today, we produce a large number of cars locally and we have developed a strong local supply chain,” Toyoda told reporters at an event in Tokyo, referring to America.
“We may be a Japanese brand ... but we’re also one of America’s car makers.”
The United States is Toyota’s biggest market, and vehicle sales in the country comprise around one-quarter of the automaker’s global sales. It operates 10 manufacturing plants in the country, and locally produces around 56 percent of its vehicles sold there, according to calculations based on company data.
Trump has focused on protectionist trade policies in his first weeks in office, formally withdrawing the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade talks and has said he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Toyoda said his company would adapt to any “rule changes” to the NAFTA trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Automotive trade will be high on the agenda when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Trump in Washington next week.
Toyoda denied media reports from earlier this week which said he would meet Abe on Friday ahead of the summit, saying that while he would like a meeting with the prime minister, it was still unclear whether one would take place due to scheduling issues.
Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Writing by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman