Sato to carmakers: don’t cut export prices

The nation’s automakers should refrain from cutting export prices even if the yen falls against the dollar, trade chief Shinji Sato said Feb. 25.

The remark came in the wake of his meeting Feb. 23 with U.S. Secretary of Sate Madeleine Albright. Albright had voiced concern over a possible flareup over the auto and auto-parts trade.

Against the backdrop of a weakening yen, auto exports to the U.S. have been on the rise. American carmakers have meanwhile been complaining about the limited increase in the number of dealerships selling foreign cars in Japan.

Under a 1995 accord, Japan promised to promote imports of cars and auto parts and assess the progress by using objective criteria, including the number of dealers handling foreign cars. Although Japan refused to set numerical targets, the U.S. announced unilaterally that the number of dealers was expected to reach 200 by the end of 1996. The actual number reached only half that figure, 103 as of the end of December.

During the news conference, Sato said car exports from Japan would not increase dramatically if Japanese automakers retain exchange profits at home instead of reflecting them in export prices.