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Japan Cuts Import Tariffs to Reduce Trade Surplus

Associated Press

The Japanese government today announced tariff reductions on more than 1,800 products, most taking effect next year, and said it is willing to discuss abolishing tariffs on all manufactured goods.

“This decision is only a first step,” Toshio Komoto, state minister for external economic relations, told a news conference after cuts of 20% or more were announced on customs levies on a range of agricultural and manufactured products.

‘Action Program’

Faced with rising foreign criticism of Japan’s huge trade surpluses, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in April announced an “action program” to open Japan’s market to imports.

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Nakasone then pledged to come up with tariff reductions by late June and other market-opening measures in July. Japan last year had a trade surplus of $45 billion, including $36.8 billion with the United States.

The tariff cuts announced today will mean reduced levies on products ranging from jellyfish and dried seaweed to gasoline and antibiotics.

The cuts may be suspended if they cause “considerable” damage to local industry, the government said.

No Quick Analysis

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A U.S. government official in Tokyo, asked what effect the tariff reductions might have on Japan’s huge trade surplus with the United States, said: “With a reduction or elimination of over 1,800 different tariff items, it’s impossible to make a rapid, educated analysis of its effects.”

The aim of the cuts is “to contribute . . . to the early initiation of the new round” of multilateral trade talks and “contribute to the maintenance and strengthening of the free trade system,” a government statement said.

The government said it was ready to discuss abolishing tariffs altogether on all manufactured goods “along with other advanced industrialized nations.”


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