NEXT Tuesday, on his second trip abroad as president, President
Clinton will arrive in Tokyo without having clinched a broad
agreement from Japan to boost imports from the United States and
thereby create hundreds of thousands of new American jobs.
Mr. Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa had
committed themselves at an April summit in Washington to reach an
agreement by July 7 on a "framework" for negotiating their two
nations' economic differences.
But Clinton trade officials left Tokyo this week in frustration
after two days of talks in which Japan rejected a US proposal to
cut its current-account surplus nearly in half by bringing in more
imports through increased domestic demand and by opening markets.
Officials in Tokyo also gave a stern "no" to a US proposal to
set "benchmarks" for measuring compliance in any trade agreement.
Japan fears that failure to meet such targets would bring
retaliation from the US.
"You Americans are results-oriented. We Japanese are
intention-oriented," says Masaya Miyoshi, director-general of the
Japan Federation of Economic Organizations.
Japanese leaders also bristle at any agreement that would force
them to arm-twist companies into opening up markets to foreigners.
"Is it reasonable for any government to ask its people to buy what
they don't want?" asks Noboru Hatakeyama, a retiring trade official.
The Clinton administration adopted a results-oriented strategy
in its approach with Japan, in contrast to what it calls a
"process-oriented" approach of President Bush. "The ultimate test
of any trade agreement is the changes it brings. It's difficult to
see any other way to monitor progress than by looking at
benchmarks," says Lawrence Summers, US undersecretary of the
treasury for international affairs.
But the lack of substantial results in talks with Japan so far
could force the US to rethink its strategy. Any change is unlikely
before Clinton arrives in Japan for the July 7-9 summit of the
Group of Seven leading industrial nations. He is to meet with Mr.
Miyazawa on July 6.
A number of world leaders and think tanks, some at Japan's
urging, have criticized the new US approach.
A study released this week by the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace suggests the US make its pitch directly to the
Japanese public, who "more than politicians or the bureaucracy, may
be the major force in setting the pace of Japan's market openings."
But Clinton officials appear impatient to create American jobs
by the end of his four-year term. …