AT&T, Japan's NTT near deal for purchase of U.S. switches

April 27, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- After years of trans-Pacific trade frictions over telephone equipment, American Telephone & Telegraph Co. announced yesterday that it had tentatively agreed to sell a dozen of its most advanced central office telephone switches to Japan's main telephone company.

The deal is the first instance of AT&T's selling telecommunications equipment to Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Co., which is the world's largest local telephone company and is two-thirds owned by the Japanese government.

Yesterday's transaction came after years of pressure applied by the United States to get NTT to break its traditional reliance on Japanese suppliers.

In recent weeks, U.S. officials had let NTT and the Japanese government know that they were closely watching the talks.

For separate reasons, U.S. and Japanese government and corporate officials played down the political side of yesterday's announcement, which was also made by NTT in Tokyo.

AT&T's Vice Chairman Randall L. Tobias contended that yesterday's decision showed that AT&T manufactured a competitive product.

But Mr. Tobias also conceded that officials at the U.S. State Department and other agencies "have certainly been helpful to us in engineering, as nearly as they could, a level playing field."

Seiichiro Noboru, the economics minister at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, said yesterday's deal had "absolutely nothing to do with political pressure because NTT has been continuously increasing its purchases since the early 1980s."

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