Japanese trade officials today brushed aside harsh international and domestic criticism of their decision to keep restraints on auto exports to the United States but at the same time relaxing them to allow the sale of 25% more vehicles this year than in 1984.
Mokoto Kuroda, a top trade ministry official, announced that "total exports will not exceed 2.3 million vehicles" for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1986. The figure is about 25% higher than previously allowed and was unofficially disclosed Wednesday.
Kuroda said the revised restraints--which allow the export of 450,000 more autos to the United States--are needed to prevent an even sharper increase in auto exports that could trigger U.S. trade retaliation.
Aid to U.S. Consumers Seen
The restraints, he said, will help ease the transition to free trade and will benefit U.S. consumers by letting the price of Japanese cars fall.
"We feel we have to make a certain kind of decision," Kuroda said. "We'd like to make the allocation of unhappiness fair."
The decision drew sharp criticism from Japanese auto makers, American auto makers, the United Auto Workers and the Reagan Administration, which said auto export restraints "are not an acceptable substitute for market-opening."
Japanese auto makers, chafing under a four-year "voluntary" restraint program that will end Sunday, had hoped for an even larger increase in their exports to the United States, their largest market.
Nissan Motors President Takashi Ishihara called the decision "truly regrettable."
American auto worker leaders criticized the increase, which they said will cost jobs in the United States.
U.S. negotiators, seeking to reduce a U.S.-Japanese trade deficit that last year nearly reached $35 billion, have been trying to force Japan to open its domestic markets to U.S. goods, especially in telecommunications, forestry products, electronics and medical equipment.