Brown presses Japan to OK goals on buying U.S. goods

April 24, 1993|By New York Times News Service

TOKYO -- Saying no other approach will work, Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown pressed Japan yesterday to agree to measurable goals for increasing its purchases of American products. But he also said that the targets need not always be a specific share of Japan's market.

Mr. Brown is on a three-day trip to Japan, a week after President Clinton met with Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa in Washington and told him that the United States wanted Japan to accept specific targets for opening its markets.

Japan is fiercely resisting the idea, calling that approach "managed trade" and arguing that it is impossible to agree in advance to the purchase of a certain amount of foreign products without knowing the price and quality of the items.

Officials in Tokyo have had a frustrating time recently dealing with trade issues and the related matter of the yen's sharp rise against the dollar since February, a trend that continued this week.

A week ago, Mr. Clinton said at a news conference in Washington that a strong yen was desirable because it would help reduce Japan's huge trade surplus. A strong yen would tend to cut Japan's exports by making them costlier for foreign buyers; it would also tend to increase Japan's imports by making foreign goods cheaper.

After Mr. Clinton's remarks, the dollar tumbled to a post-World War II low of 110.25 yen, a 12 percent decline since the start of the year. The dollar finished at 110.40 yen in Tokyo yesterday and at 110.51 yen in New York.

Mr. Brown said at his news conference that gaining a specific share of a Japanese market was only one of the ways to measure results of changes in trade relations. He said other gauges could include the number of joint ventures between American and Japanese companies, the number of instances in which American components are used in Japanese products or the overall increase in American exports.

"We have not argued that every solution has to mirror the semiconductor agreement, although we do believe that was a good agreement," he said. Mr. Brown was referring to an agreement that called for foreign computer chips to have 20 percent of Japan's market by the end of 1992, a goal that was met.

Washington and Tokyo are working on two trade agreements, Mr. Brown said.

One will be intended to alter the structure of the Japanese economy to make it easier for foreign companies to compete. This program will be the successor to the Structural Impediments Initiative undertaken during the Bush administration.

The other, which Mr. Brown called a "strategic export initiative," will involve trying to gain market share in specific sectors.

Mr. Brown and Mickey Kantor, the U.S. trade representative, have identified several sectors that could be candidates for these negotiations, including computers, semiconductors, supercomputers, construction and cars.

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