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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan's Premier Acts To Open Up Markets

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa told key ministries Thursday to draft emergency market-opening measures, possibly before the end of next week, to contain an escalating trade dispute with the United States.


Hosokawa was also set to call a special cabinet meeting on Friday in an effort to speed up drafting of the "voluntary" measures he promised after last week's U.S.-Japan summit broke down over U.S. demands to set numerical market access targets.


Before the failed summit, Washington spent weeks in heated negotiations with Tokyo trying to pry open its markets and cut its huge trade surplus with the United States.


"We must draw up more concrete and visible measures as soon as possible," government spokesman Masayoshi Takemura said after Hosokawa had summoned his chief trade negotiators to an emergency meeting.


As for specific timing for the new measures, he said: "As soon as possible, maybe before the next G-7 gathering."


Finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations meet in Frankfurt, Germany on Feb. 26. Japanese Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii will attend along with U.S. Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, the first high-level contact between the two sides since the Feb. 11 bilateral summit in Washington.


Issues under discussion as Japan mulls fresh "voluntary" market-opening measures include deregulation, promoting investment to boost imports and ways to increase government procurement of foreign goods, Takemura said.


In his afternoon news conference, the spokesman repeated his morning statement that the two sides must calm down and halt the transpacific war of words.


"In the last stage of the Japan-U.S. framework talks, the two sides agreed to a cooling-off period," Takemura said.


On Tuesday, U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor fired off the first salvo by handing down a decision that Japan had violated a 1989 accord on opening its cellular phone market.


Kantor said the decision meant he would be drawing up within 30 days a list of Japanese goods to be targeted in retaliatory measures worth hundreds of millions of dollars.


Japanese Posts and Telecommunications Minister Takenori Kanzaki took up Kantor's challenge Wednesday, rejecting the telephones charge and vowing to protest over any American trade retaliation to the global trade forum, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.


The row even flared up in faraway Geneva on Wednesday when Japan's chief negotiator at GATT accused the United States of "betrayal" in withdrawing tariff cut offers that had helped clear the way for last December's world trade deal.


Nobutoshi Akao said that if U.S. negotiators did not change their position, Japan might have to reduce its own offers to cut tariffs in areas of special interest to the United States.


President Bill Clinton said on Wednesday Washington was ready to draw up options and recommendations within the next few days to deal with its series of trade disputes with Tokyo.