Ernest Conine's article "A Shot Across Japan's Bow," (Editorial Pages, April 6) about the U.S. retaliation against Japan misses some fundamental points.
First, nothing distorts the reality more seriously than to describe the U.S. as a victim of Japan's "predatory export practices." Not only have American consumers benefited from reasonably priced high-quality Japanese products, but American industries have been able to overcome stagnation and are recovering their competitiveness thanks to the Japanese challenge.
Second, Japanese rice agriculture is protected not simply because it is "at the heart of Japanese culture," but because it is the basis of everyday life in Japan. Food shortage in post-World War II years is still fresh in the minds of many. Moreover, securing a steady food supply is essential to the national security of Japan or that of any other country. This is why import of some kinds of crops is banned in many countries. Just as the U.S. intervened in Fujitsu's plan to buy Fairchild on the ground of national security, so Japan has a good reason to protect her rice industry.
Third, American and European companies are at a disadvantage in the Kansai Airport project and the proposed telecommunications venture because they do not fully respect Japan's sociocultural tradition. Certainly, "old-boy" networks exist. But these networks are found everywhere and are rooted in each country's history. If foreign companies really want to penetrate the Japanese market, they must accept its practices as a given, instead of criticizing them as the "real barrier to reciprocal trade," and devise ways to increase their market share. To do this, language competence is vital. The fact that few Americans and Europeans can do business with Japan in Japanese attests to their lack of efforts in this area.