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The Great Trade War : THE FICTION

May 18, 1993|JOEL HAVEMANN and JAMES GERSTENZANG | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The time is the future. With the Cold War a fading memory, the world's superpowers now compete economically, not militarily. And the Great Trade War begun in 1994 is taking a heavy toll.

In Los Angeles, imported goods are growing scarce. High tariffs have priced French wine out of the market. A Sony Walkman costs nearly $200--when you can find one. Quotas limit the number of Japanese cars; Californians must pay dearly for those that are available. With less competition from across the Pacific, GM, Ford and Chrysler have jacked up own prices. U.S. manufacturers that used to rely on export sales are struggling. Workers who once designed computers in Sunnyvale and built airplanes in Seattle are collecting unemployment benefits instead. The jobless rate is 10% and rising. College enrollment is dwindling. More and more homeowners are in default on their mortgages. More and more small business are folding. Is this fiction? Of course. Could something like it happen? It could.

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