Japan's trade surplus with U.S. climbs 45% Demands on Tokyo likely to mount

May 19, 1992|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Japan's trade surplus with the United States rose 45 percent last month compared with April a year ago, and the figure is expected to worsen in coming months as the U.S. economy strengthens and Japan tries to export its way out of economic downturn.

Autos and trucks led the surge in U.S. imports from Japan, with electrical machinery, general machinery and data processing equipment also showing strength. Together, they helped push total Japanese exports to the United State to $7.5 billion -- 27 percent of Japan's global export total of $27.2 billion.

Japanese imports from the United State for the month were $4.23 billion, a 21 percent share of that country's total imports.

Japan can expect to come under even greater pressure to open its markets at a July summit of the leaders of the seven wealthiest industrial nations in Munich, Germany.

The increase in the U.S. trade deficit with Japan also could fuel political demands in the United States for countermeasures. Trade has become a major issue in an election year when unemployment is expected to stay around 7 percent and protectionist pressures are growing.

The trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing today on legislation aimed at increasing U.S. access to the Japanese auto and rice markets while limiting Japanese auto exports to the United States. It also seeks to open the Japanese auto-parts market to U.S. parts makers.

Japanese nameplate cars, either imported or made in the United States, have accounted for up to 40 percent of the U.S. market recently, and U.S. automakers have led the call for restrictions.

Lee Kadrich, director of government affairs and international trade for the Automotive Parts and Accessories Association, who will testify at today's congressional hearing, said yesterday that he will tell members of Congress the Japanese ran up a $9.2 billion deficit in auto parts last year, 10 times the 1980 figure.

"Will the imports [into the U.S.] pick up? Indeed they will," he said. "Clearly, they are exporting their way out of" the economic downturn.

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