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U.S.-Japan Trade Problems

April 26, 1987

Prof. Masataka Kosaka, "But Japan Should Not Be a Scapegoat for U.S. Failure" (Editorial Pages, April 7) says that the gravamen of our economic problems lie not with the large trade imbalance between our two countries but rather the failure of our government to slash "popular programs" in order to balance our budget. He advises his government that to avoid being made the scapegoat for our economic failure, Japan needs a "finely tuned mix of liberalization in Tokyo and straight talk to Washington."

Kosaka does not define "popular programs." I guess he does not include our large expenditures for defense that has provided the military muscle that has protected Japan these past 40 years, while it has gone about its business doing business. He says opening Japan's markets will hardly stem the tide of red ink for us. I agree, but neither will slashing "popular programs," unless we reduce military expenditures and raise money for the treasury--including income from tariffs, if necessary. Every measure, taken together, is needed to turn us around.

He fears we will do to Japan what Japan has done to us for 30 years. Under the guise of free trade Japan has dealt with us unfairly. Like a sore that festers for too long, we have permitted Japan to reap an economic harvest at our expense. The result has been larger trade deficits and loss of major industries. We permitted the Japanese open access to our markets while they blocked similar access to theirs, and assigned major portions of our GNP to defense while they neither were asked or offered to make any contributions to it.

The United States was right not to repeat the mistake made at Versailles. We did not seek reparations in the tens of billions for the havoc Japan was responsible. Our mistake was in failing to require that when Japan recovered, we were entitled to equality of opportunity. For 30 years our trade representatives went to Japan promising to achieve equality. Unfortunately, each received nothing more than vague promises.

Presently Japan should institute "affirmative action," which includes providing us with the very same freedom to their markets that we have given them, not "finely tuned liberalization." They should stop anti-competitive practices, including "dumping," and they should offer to make some contribution to our defense budget.

In the years that followed the war, we have grown to love and respect the Japanese, and I believe that love and respect is mutual. But the child has grown up and it is long past due that it own up to its responsibilities.

GEORGE MAGIT

Los Angeles

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