President Trump’s vocal antipathy toward multilateral trade deals has overshadowed a seemingly contrary, and certainly praiseworthy, inclination of his administration: the pursuit of bilateral trade deals with crucial trading partners.

Japan is on Trump’s mind this weekend as Prime Minister Shinzō Abe visited the White House Friday. The two leaders are discussing, among other matters, a U.S.-Japan trade deal. Critics never thought Japan would entertain such a deal after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 12-way Trans-Pacific Partnership. But economic reality weighs heavier than hurt feelings, and both countries know they will be better off if they can work out a trade deal that reduces distortions.

We encourage Trump and Abe to pursue this trade deal and to persist in the pursuit. Trump could help the U.S. economy and burnish his image as a dealmaker if he pulls off a U.S.-Japan deal. He would also silence the barking of those who chastised him as an "isolationist" when he pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trump has responded to the "isolationist" charge by saying he’s not anti-trade, he just opposes bad trade deals. Here’s his chance to prove it.

Crucially, Trump shouldn’t pursue quotas from Japan, but systemic reform. To juice the U.S. economy, we don’t need promises that Japan will buy some certain quantity of soy. Rather, we need Japan to dial back their tariffs and subsidies. Abe has incentives to reform because Trump has threatened tariffs on Japanese cars. These tariffs would hurt Americans, but they would hurt Japan more.

Similarly, getting Japan to promise to make more cars here also would serve only as a patch. We need Japan to lower the tariffs they charge on U.S. goods, currently 38.5%. Those tariffs should go far lower, even lower than the 26.6% Japan charges Australia and Canada. Trump should also demand that Japan reduce its export subsidies for manufactured goods and its distorting farm subsidies.

American businesses don’t need special concessions or promises from Japan’s government. They just need access without the barriers and tariffs — the ability to compete in an unrigged system.

The same thing that applies to Japan applies to the U.K. and China. Trump doesn’t need to sign up for the global multilateral deals that are so beloved in Davos in order to create new opportunities for U.S. businesses. Bilateral trade deals with those countries, inked before the end of 2020 and reducing tariffs and distorting subsidies, would be major accomplishments that boost the U.S. economy.