U.S. envoy tries to move Japan on rice imports Resistance prompts scorn from Hills

November 17, 1991|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Tokyo Bureau of The Sun

TOKYO -- Washington's top trade negotiator went public with finger-pointing and ridicule yesterday afternoon, after two days of talks with Japanese officials produced no clear agreement on how to bring high-stakes world trade talks to a conclusion.

"Japan stands alone with Korea," in resisting proposals to convert agricultural trade barriers to tariffs in order to achieve a // new opening of agricultural markets, Carla A. Hills, the trade representative, declared at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy.

At stake is a 107-nation drive for an expansion of virtually the entire General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the capitalist world's basic document of international commerce.

Japan's ban on rice imports is widely regarded as a key stumbling block to completing the agreement.

Japanese officials have nervously watched their country become increasingly isolated in recent weeks as European and U.S. negotiators have begun to make progress on some of the politically explosive agricultural issues that prevented agreement by the original deadline last winter.

Mrs. Hills ranged back and forth between finger-pointing and sarcasm yesterday afternoon, in effect giving an opening taste of precisely the kind of out-in-the-open pressure campaign Japanese officials have been worried for two months might be on the way.

She reacted with undisguised scorn when asked whether a quota system mentioned by some Japanese politicians, opening percent of this country's rice market to imports, might be an acceptable alternative to the tariff proposal.

"Can you imagine telling the government of Japan that its carmakers could only have 3 percent of the U.S. auto market?" she demanded. "If you're going to open up to trade, you have to open up, and no country has benefited as much as Japan has from other countries' open trade policies."

Mrs. Hills asserted that the industrial and other provisions of the agreement already negotiated would strengthen fledgling democracies in former Communist countries, would immensely benefit manufacturers, exporters and especially Japan, and would add trillions of dollars to the world's production over the next decade.

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