Trade Talks With Japan

Revisionist thinking as expressed by well-known trade negotiator and author Clyde V. Prestowitz and Gioia Marini (Opinion, Feb. 17) is a good thing in that it serves an important purpose in the ongoing U.S.-Japan dialogue. It opens new vistas through which we can see our positions more clearly.

The revisionists, unfortunately, choose to measure our economic relations only in terms of trade, blaming the U.S. trade imbalance with Japan entirely on Japanese society and its allegedly closed market. Prestowitz even carried that postulate into a new arena by denying the effectiveness of the recent Structural Impediments Initiative (SII) talks, through which both countries spent a year in intensive discussions of our very basic structures and presented papers to each other last June suggesting corrective measures.

While we do appreciate those revisionist positions, we find them unacceptable and even detrimental to truly constructive U.S.-Japan relations on a number of grounds:

1. They are unrealistic, since they ignore the many elements of U.S.-Japan economic relations that are truly close and mutually beneficial.

2. They are misleading in attacking a U.S. trade imbalance with Japan that has been shrinking steadily from $56.3 billion in 1987 to $41.1 billion in 1990--a healthy drop as U.S. exporters have become more active.

3. They are unconstructive in advocating that cooperation between our countries be abandoned, a cooperation which we believe to be indispensable to sound leadership in the global economy.

4. Finally, they are irrational and emotional in promoting unilateralism by calling for change in Japan, but not in the U.S.

Despite the accusations, Japan's capitalistic economy is based on freedom of trade and on an open market, and its rules are economically rational from the perspective of either of our two countries. If a difference exists, it would be only in approach, and that can be resolved by harmonizing the systems, which has been and will continue to be done with reason and patience. Certainly that means understanding our different social structures, as is unfolding in the SII talks, and not ignoring or denying either society's differences.

To unilaterally declare a halt to SII, as revisionists might like to do, is so premature as to be open to challenge. The purpose of SII is to identify and resolve structural problems between our two countries, problems which impede adjustments in the imbalance of trade and international accounts. President Bush, in his January State of the Union message, carefully described the U.S. actions being taken on the same steps Japan identified as necessary for this country to take during the talks.

Japan's economy is now import-oriented and consumer-driven, a direct result of earlier talks with the U.S. and other countries. The general U.S. trade imbalance, as well as that with Japan, is due largely to macroeconomic factors. We have urged this country to lower its budget deficit, one of the primary causes of the trade imbalances, and steps in that direction were taken last spring.

There is no place in the "new world order" for unilateralism or isolationism, and it is important for both countries and our trading partners to resist any such temptations and to advance our economic relationships with calm resolve. Anything less will damage each of us and our roles in the global economy.


Consul General of Japan

Los Angeles

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World