Repeated requests by the United States Trade Representative to liberalize the Japanese auto market are unreasonable and do not reflect current market conditions in Japan, the head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said Thursday.

Commenting on remarks made by USTR Charlene Barshefsky earlier in the day, JAMA Chairman Yoshifumi Tsuji said at a regular press conference that the openness of the Japanese auto market cannot be determined by the number of sales outlets.

Barshefsky reportedly said that the 1995 bilateral auto agreement is not working effectively to expand the presence of U.S. products in Japan, and that the USTR is preparing a set of requests to be presented to the Japanese government as early as October.

Tsuji responded by saying that, contrary to earlier complaints, Ford Motor Co., for example, is now trying to reduce the number of its sales outlets in Japan as part of restructuring efforts.

“An increase of sales outlets (of U.S. automakers) does not directly mean that the Japanese market is open. In the same manner, even if the number of sales outlets declined, it would not mean that the market is closed,” he said.

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