Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe said Sunday that Japan “must resign itself” to Congress’ “passing one protectionist bill after another” aimed at Japan and that of such measures will become law.
Abe’s statement was the first flat prediction by a top government official that Congress will act against Japan and that President Reagan will not be able to block such protectionism. He made the statement in a panel discussion on U.S.-Japan trade frictions broadcast by NHK, the semi-governmental national TV network.
Abe, who will meet Secretary of State George P. Shultz on Sept. 26 during a visit to the United Nations, did not specify which protectionist measures he foresaw becoming law. Nor did he threaten Japanese retaliation if Congress does enact legislation aimed at Japan.
Abe said, however, that he fears that “the fundamental relations between Japan and the United States may be affected.” He also said that passage of protectionist bills would destroy any hope of opening a new round of multinational trade negotiations.
The foreign minister said that the many arguments against protectionist steps aimed at Japan have become meaningless to congressmen, who are focusing solely on the size of the U.S. trade deficit with this country. He acknowledged that the deficit, which reached $37 billion last year, “will approach $50 billion this year.”
“If there was a sign that the growth trend in the U.S. deficit is changing, it would be easier for the U.S. government to persuade Congress. But without such a sign, Congress will pass one (protectionist) bill after another.
“Even though President Reagan says he will veto such bills, the President will have to engage in deals with Congress on fiscal matters and will not be able to exercise his veto power against all of them,” Abe said.