A lot of countries have problems with the Japanese. They can be infuriatingly difficult negotiators. But differences over trade policy need to be discussed intelligently, not the way France's new prime minister likes to talk about these issues. Her way is to talk down to the Japanese. And that's not going to get anyone anywhere.
"Japan is another universe, which wants to conquer," Prime Minister Edith Cresson said recently. "That's the way they are." The Japanese market is "hermetically sealed," and the Japanese stay up nights trying to think of ways "to screw the West," she said. According to reports in the Japanese media, she has described the Japanese as "yellow dwarfs."
Before she became prime minster, in an interview with The Times in 1989, Cresson referred to the Japanese as being "just like ants, eating you up" and went on to say: "You just don't notice it. You don't feel it. You don't see it."
That kind of language from a leading Western "diplomat" is unfortunate and worrisome not simply because of its deleterious effects on French-Japanese relations but because of what it might suggest about the policies and attitudes of the emerging European Community. The EC's worst critics fear the erection of a protectionist wall to keep foreigners out. The Japanese one year, they say; perhaps the Americans the next.