Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. and Japan Stuck on Trade Clinton Keeping Tough Stance on Opening Markets

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. and Japan Stuck on Trade Clinton Keeping Tough Stance on Opening Markets

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton and Japan's prime minister failed to patch up differences on trade Friday, and Clinton abandoned diplomatic niceties to declare Japan's markets locked tight. Deadlocked talks, he said, were better than "an empty agreement."

Clinton maintained a tough line while the Japanese continued to resist the use of specific benchmarks to measure whether U.S. products were getting a fair share of Japan's markets.

With Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa standing somberly at his side, Clinton gave a blunt assessment of the situation.

Japan's negotiating stance "simply did not meet the standards" the two sides had set in a preliminary agreement last summer in Tokyo, the president said at a news conference. After more than 30 trade accords, Japan remains less open to foreign imports than any major industrialized nation, Clinton said.

"Its regulations and practices screen out many of our products, even our most competitive products," he said.

Hosokawa said, "We have not yet come to agree on all the important issues, despite our intensive negotiations over the past six months." Hosokawa said the U.S. demand for numerical targets grates against the deregulation effort he is pursuing in Japan.

"My administration is promoting deregulation, and so it runs right in the face of our basic tenet. That is what I've been telling the president during our meeting today," he said.

Clinton shot back: "That's not what we're asking for. What we're asking for is what we agreed to last summer, which was a way of measuring by objective standards whether progress is being made in opening markets."

U.S. officials said they would not return to the table until Japan changes its position on "objective criteria" to measure the opening of its markets. They said that appeared unlikely.

Clinton's administration is considering unspecified other options, presumably including trade sanctions to force the opening of Japan's markets, said the officials. They indicated that any action would be taken before Clinton and Hosokawa meet again at the next economic summit meeting of industrialized nations in July.

The United States will proceed "promptly, responsibly and carefully," one official said. Action could come as early as Tuesday, when the United States is expected to complete a review of how open Japan's cellular telephone market is to foreign competition.

Both Clinton and Hosokawa emphasized that the trade disagreement did not impede what they described as the otherwise favorable U.S.-Japan relationship. Clinton went out of his way to praise domestic steps taken by Hosokawa toward political and economic reform. They also pledged joint efforts to ensure that North Korea is not developing nuclear weapons. Hosokawa said Japan would support U.N. sanctions against North Korea if it fails to allow international inspection of its nuclear facilities. …

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