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Reports: Trump to Appoint Tennessee Businessman as Ambassador to Japan

FILE - Bill Hagerty, former Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner, (left) and fiscal policy adviser Paul VanderMeer appear before a state commission, Feb.5, 2014.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump plans to pick businessman William Hagerty as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan, an adviser to Trump’s transition team told Reuters Wednesday.

Japan’s Nikkei news service reported that Trump would soon announce the choice of Hagerty, the director of presidential appointments in his transition team.

The adviser who spoke to Reuters confirmed the Nikkei report on condition of anonymity.

Hagerty is a Tennessee native who founded a private equity firm, Hagerty Peterson. He spent several years in Japan with the Boston Consulting Group and later served in the White House of former President George H.W. Bush.

He will replace Caroline Kennedy, who has held the position since 2013.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, declined to comment on the report since the choice has yet to be formally announced, saying only that he hoped the new ambassador would be able to develop a friendly U.S.-Japan relationship.

But others said the choice suggests Trump is prioritizing economics in bilateral ties, a potential relief for officials concerned by his protectionist stance on trade during the presidential campaign.

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 the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

A long-time U.S. resident of Tokyo who knows Hagerty by reputation said he had a reputation as a “typical management consultant — logical, thoughtful, and has no patience for trade rhetoric.”

The news was likely reassure officials at the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry (METI) as well as the Ministry of Finance (MOF), he added.

“The boys at the U.S. Defense Department and the Defense Agency may be disappointed because of his lack of experience in the geopolitical aspects of the U.S.-Japan relationship, but METI, MOF and everyone else here in Tokyo should be breathing a sign of relief,” he added.

Japan’s Defense Ministry was formerly called the Defense Agency.