Carmakers will not reduce exports, JAMA says

Japan’s auto industry has no intention of sharply increasing exports, but the idea that automakers should refrain from exporting more is not acceptable, according to the head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

JAMA Chairman Yoshifumi Tsuji made the comments June 17, as U.S. concerns grow over Japan’s trade surplus. The yen’s relative weakness against the dollar is believed to be contributing to an increase in Japanese exports — especially cars.

U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky spoke out last week about Japan’s rising trade surplus, and Shinji Sato, minister of international trade and industry, has been calling on Japanese automakers to exercise moderation in exporting their products overseas. Some Japanese government officials also believe that the trade surplus issue may be raised later this week in bilateral talks in the U.S. when the leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and Russia meet in Denver.

Due to the slow pace of Japan’s economic recovery, the nation’s domestic auto market is unlikely to expand this year, and Tsuji said it is natural for anyone doing business to cover losses incurred in the domestic market by increasing exports. “Since we are doing business, it is not anyone else’s business to tell us not to increase our exports to cover the decline in domestic demand,” he said.

Tsuji added that car firms are making efforts to avoid trade friction by increasing their local production in the U.S. instead of exporting from Japan. Tsuji denied that sluggish sales of American cars in the Japanese market, compared with European automakers’ cars, are due to trade barriers. “There are foreign cars that sell well in Japan. U.S. automakers should conduct better marketing strategies in Japan,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jiro Ushio, head of the Japanese Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), said Japan’s automakers should be careful not to cut prices on the cars they export, even when the yen declines against the dollar. “Japanese companies that compete in the global market should not lower the prices of their products because of the lower yen,” he said. “Rather, they should keep their profits, benefit from the exchange rate, and prepare for future investment.”