The United States and Japan held two days of informal and largely friendly trade talks this week that yielded no substantial progress on disputes between the two countries.
While Congress is preparing tough new legislation this fall targeting Japan's barriers to trade, a senior U.S. official stressed Tuesday that continuing dialogue with Japan was preferable to retaliation.The talks between the Commerce Department and Japan's Ministry on International Trade and Industry covered a variety of joint programs between the two agencies to promote contacts between businesses. Yet a press conference at the end of the talks was dominated by questions about auto trade, which itself is expected to account for more than half of the total U.S. trade deficit this year.
Commerce Undersecretary J. Michael Farren described two new joint studies that MITI and Commerce will conduct on auto parts trade and Japan's automobile market, but conceded that this may not satisfy U.S. auto parts executives, whom he will meet on Thursday.
That advisory committee of parts producers has asked the Bush administration to prepare work on a trade investigation of Japan's auto parts industry under Section 301 of U.S. trade law.
Mr. Farren said the administration is not inclined to use Section 301, which provides sanctions against unfair trade practices. He could not predict when he would be able to give U.S. industry an answer to its request.
MITI Vice Minister Noboru Hatekayama said that he also was concerned about resolving U.S. complaints about barriers to auto parts trade in Japan, but indicated that part of the blame lay with U.S. distributors trying to charge unfairly high prices in Japan.