U.S. President Bill Clinton urged Japan on Friday to stimulate its economy by further opening its markets, pushing deregulation and foreign investment so the nation can share leadership with the U.S. in ensuring regional prosperity and security.

Addressing about 300 members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan as well as a throng of reporters packed into a conference room at a Tokyo hotel, Clinton criticized Japan for its inability to accept more investment, accelerate deregulation and allow more market access.

Clinton referred to Japan’s exports of steel products to the U.S. as a prime example of unfair trade. “In the United States, we’ve had this year, in one year, a 500 percent increase in imports of hot-rolled steel from Japan and a 300 percent increase in imports of hot-rolled steel from Russia,” he said. “No one seriously believes this is solely because of changing economic conditions.”

Clinton also said he is very concerned about a potential rise in protectionism during such tough times when borders are closing up while other markets are being heavily penetrated.

Boasting U.S. efforts to contribute to the world economy, Clinton also noted that exports from ailing Asian economies to Japan are down by $13 billion and their exports to the U.S. are up by $5 billion this year. “With others in the region still struggling, Japan, and only Japan, can lead Asia back to stability and growth by meeting its own economic challenge,” Clinton stressed. “Japan’s prosperity is vital to our own future.”

A strong political and security-related partnership for world peace between Japan and the U.S. cannot be maintained over the long run unless the two economies are also strong, he said.

Keys to Japanese recovery include rapid and vigorous implementation of bank reform legislation and an economic stimulus plan, Clinton said.

Citing the U.S. savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, the president warned that “delay in a crisis like this only makes matters worse.”

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