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U.S. Trade With Japan

July 08, 1993

* Former senator and Ambassador Mike Mansfield said in his column ("It's Sunset for the Old Order in the Land of the Rising Sun," Commentary, June 25) " . . . what's good for the Japanese consumer is good for those in the world economy. . . ."

This seems way off the mark to me.

Certainly what is good for the Japanese consumer is not good for the U.S. economy. It is not good for the Japanese consumer to see a stronger, more competitive U.S. economy. A stronger, more competitive U.S. economy would threaten the Japanese consumer's job.

Right now the Japanese economy is dominating the U.S. economy. In April of this year the U.S. trade deficit with Japan was $5.5 billion. This is 11 times the $500 million that Rebuild L.A. raised in its first year of operation. The American people sent more money to Japan due to the trade deficit in three days in April than they have sent to Rebuild L.A. since it was founded just after the riots.

These billions we send to Japan create thousands of jobs in Japan. Japanese consumers, who first and foremost are jobholders, don't want to lose those jobs. It is good for them, therefore, that things stay as they are, that our economy remains weak and that theirs remains strong--that they, not we, have the jobs.



* Your editorial (June 30) seems to imply that problems surrounding the terms of international trade are to be solved simply by government agreements.

By referencing Japan as an example of how the lack of firm agreements impedes the growth of the world economy, your writer buys into the concept that somehow there are extensive current barriers to trade. While there are inarguably informal, as well as government, policies in Japan that tend to impede the flow of U.S. goods into Japan, the fact remains that Japan is our country's second largest trading partner, the largest importer of U.S.-produced agricultural goods, and on a per capita basis, buys almost twice as much from the U.S. as we do from them.

The solution to the trade "problem" is for American producers to manufacture goods American consumers wish to purchase. In fact, we have recently begun to see the effects of real competition in the revival of the American produced automobile--better cars at lower prices.

As long as Japanese, German or even Brazilian goods are perceived by the American consumer as superior in value to their domestically produced counterparts, the trade gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world will remain. The solution lies in the boardrooms of America, not in the conference rooms of government ministries.



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