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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan's New Trade Measures Fall Short of Hopes

TOKYO -- In a bid to defuse trade tensions with the United States, the Japanese government approved Tuesday morning a package of measures intended to make Japan's markets more open to foreign goods and services.

The move came as Japanese auto makers Honda and Mazda announced separate plans to buy more foreign parts, joining Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi in responding to U.S. calls for an improvement in the auto trade imbalance.

The government package falls far short of Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa's promise of a dramatic stroke to deregulate the economy and lower import barriers, though it includes some modest steps toward satisfying U.S. demands. Many of the important details were left to be decided later.

After Hosokawa rejected U.S. demands to set numerical targets for Japanese purchases of foreign goods at his acrimonious summit meeting with President Clinton on Feb. 11, the prime minister vowed that Tokyo would remove import restrictions and burdensome regulations on its own, within a matter of weeks.

But many specific proposals ran into resistance from powerful government ministries and interest groups. The toughest decisions have been put off until late June, when Hosokawa plans a second round of market-opening measures, timed for presentation to the annual summit meeting of the Group of Seven industrial nations in July.

Among the issues deferred until June is whether the government will use additional measures to stimulate the economy.

Hosokawa was quoted as saying by chief government spokesman Masayoshi Takemura that "I hope this maximum effort by Japan will help smooth U.S.-Japan ties and reopen the economic framework talks."

But the initial U.S. reaction was noncommittal. Hosokawa telephoned Clinton, who is on vacation in California, with details of the plan Monday. Clinton told Hosokawa "he would very carefully review the plan," White House spokesman Jeff Eller told reporters.

Doubts that Washington would be satisfied pushed the yen higher on currency markets Tuesday. Players speculated that the United States would seek to reduce its annual $59 billion deficit in trade with Japan by nudging the Japanese currency higher, making Japan-ese exports less competitive.