TOKYO -- Japan's foreign minister said this morning that Tokyo "cannot accept" the Clinton administration's new proposals for opening Japanese markets to more imports.
The proposal amounts to a form of "managed trade," Foreign Minister Kabun Muto told reporters within hours after the Washington news media received their first briefings on the plan. Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of Washington.
Japanese officials have been denouncing "managed trade" for more than two months in a public-relations drive aimed at countering the long-anticipated Clinton administration package.
Japan's ambassador in Washington was briefed on the proposals ahead of the Washington press corps.
Japanese and U.S. negotiators are to begin talks Friday in an attempt to hammer out a new framework for Japan-U.S. trade discussions under the new administration.
The new plan from Washington will "make the talks much more difficult," Mr. Muto said.
After years of world-record trade surpluses, built with the help of decades of severely restricted imports to Japan, Tokyo has reduced or eliminated its tariffs and legal import restrictions over the past 15 years.
This year, as the Clinton administration set out to pry open this country's remaining barriers, Tokyo has adopted the posture of an aggrieved free-trade advocate being bullied by an increasingly protectionist Washington.
Spokesmen for the Ministry of International Trade and for the Foreign Ministry said that neither ministry had any immediate comment on the administration proposals.