U.s. Snubs New Japanese Plan

March 30, 1994|By New York Times News Service Bloomberg Business News contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- The nation's top trade official yesterday dismissed the Japanese government's latest proposed trade concessions as inadequate and half-finished, and said the United States would not reopen bilateral trade talks until Tokyo went further.

The strong criticism by Mickey Kantor, the U.S. trade representative, showed that the Clinton administration had no intention of easing its pressure on Japan despite the weakening of its government and the growing possibility of fresh elections there later in the spring.

"The package of measures is of limited substance and appears to be half-finished work," Mr. Kantor said at a news conference at the White House yesterday.

The U.S. response leaves trade relations between the United States and Japan in a stalemate, with no resolution in sight. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale, speaking in Tokyo this morning, said he was "disappointed" with Japan's "vague" proposals.

"There is really nothing there except a suggestion that some months down the road as they near the July summit that something might be done," Mr. Mondale said. President Clinton and Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa are not scheduled to meet again until July, at the annual economic summit of leaders from the seven richest industrial democracies.

Trade talks broke down on Feb. 11, when Mr. Clinton and Mr. Hosokawa failed to meet an ambitious schedule set last summer for the gradual reduction of Japanese trade barriers and for new tax and spending policies to stimulate the Japanese economy.

Japanese officials expressed dismay at the U.S. response.

"I think this is a very harsh message," said an official at the Japanese Embassy in Washington. "If the U.S. strategy is based the belief that only by bringing pressure can you produce results, that runs the risk of bringing the U.S. and Japan to the edge of a cliff."

House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat, joined the Clinton administration in rejecting the latest Japanese offer as inadequate.

"Japan has once again offered to make changes sometime in the future hoping to reduce tensions without acting," Mr. Gephardt said. "We should no longer accept recycled promises from the past."

The Japanese proposal promises an extension of income tax cuts, an overhaul of government procurement rules and the deregulation of big industries such as telecommunications and financial services, which foreign companies have found tough to enter.

The proposal, however, included very few details, most of whichare to be worked out by June.

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