New bilateral trade fears emerging, U.S. says

Although the bilateral economic relationship between Japan and the United States has been relatively calm recently, tensions may increase as Washington voiced concerns May 27 over market access for foreign-made flat glass products and paper.

In a review of the flat glass agreement signed in 1994 between Japan and the U.S., “we found that the progress in that agreement has been poor,” a U.S. government official said. “Foreign firms are making virtually no progress in penetrating Japan’s distribution system in the area of flat glass,” the official said.

The official added that Japan’s distribution system remains very traditional and that access to that distribution system is “extremely difficult.” He added that foreign firms are also facing problems with market access in the paper sector, adding that sales of foreign-made paper in Japan increased up until last year and that sales in the first quarter of this year saw a drastic decrease.

The U.S. has been seeking discussions with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to promote cooperation in the sector since the expiry of the bilateral paper agreement in April, but the Japanese side has refused to do so, according to the official. “We are open to communications and communications are very important to resolve our trade issues,” the official said.