Car chiefs to hold talks in Tokyo Import-export will be focus of the negotiations.

December 27, 1991|By Journal of Commerce

TOKYO QXB — TOKYO -- The key players in the U.S. and Japanese automobile industries will meet here Jan. 9 to work on what could emerge as a new blueprint for expanding sales of U.S. cars and car parts in Japan.

Industry analysts said here yesterday that the chairmen of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. will meet with their Japanese counterparts from Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp.

Likely to attend as observers are officials of the U.S. Commerce Department and Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, possibly accompanied by specialists from Japan's Ministry of Transport.

The meeting coincides with the official visit to Tokyo of President Bush. The Big Three U.S. auto executives -- Ford's Harold Poling, GM's Robert Stempel and Chrysler's Lee Iacocca -- most likely will use the occasion to reiterate complaints about what they see as Japan's closed car market, Japanese analysts said yesterday.

The three U.S. carmakers sell less than 17,000 motor vehicles combined in Japan each year, while Japanese auto manufacturers together sell about 3.3 million passenger automobiles and trucks in the United States.

As for auto parts and components, Japan sold $10.6 billion worth of these items to the United States in 1990, while importing only about $800 million worth from U.S. companies resulting in a $30 billion U.S. deficit in the auto sector trade between the two countries.

However, the Japanese executives likely will stick to their argument that U.S. auto sector sales are low in Japan not because Japan is a closed market, but because the U.S. cars still are not competitive in quality, industry analysts here said.

Once the two sides establish their respective positions, the analysts contend, the Japanese will concede that something should be done to remedy the situation since this particular deficit is responsible for some 75 percent of the United States's annual $41 billion trade deficit with Japan.

The analysts said the Japanese executives will propose a series of new sales promotion schemes that may benefit U.S. efforts to expand car and component exports to Japan in 1992. However, they declined to speculate on what these schemes may entail.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, during meetings with the press earlier this week, directed government authorities to move toward easing the nation's strict certification standards on emission controls for imported motor vehicles.

Washington has long cited Tokyo's application of stiff emission controls on imported automobiles as a major block to the sale of U.S. cars in Japan.

Addressing the Federation of Economic Organizations, Miyazawa called for understanding from his country's auto industry leaders, even though his administration's concessions to the United States may "cause problems" for domestic manufacturers. Indications are, however, that resistance to the prime minister's efforts on behalf of U.S. car imports is widening among officials.

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