The government issued a paper Friday attacking an annual trade barrier report released earlier this month by the United States Trade Representative that accuses Tokyo of carrying out unfair trade practices.
Brushing aside the allegations, the paper counters by accusing the U.S. of violating international trade rules by threatening countries with unilateral sanctions.
Shotaro Oshima, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Economic Affairs Bureau, handed the paper Friday to Lawrence Greenwood, minister counselor for economic affairs at the U.S. embassy in Tokyo.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Sadaaki Numata later told a news conference it was inappropriate for Washington to have used the verb “press” in several places in the report, calling it a “one-sided expression.”
“Because every country is on an equal footing, it is inappropriate for one nation to say it is ‘pressing’ others,” he said.
On April 1, the USTR released its 1999 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, which covered 54 sectors in nine industries regarding Japan. The sectors include automobiles, auto parts, flat glass, steel, rice, government procurement and insurance.
Numata, citing the USTR report’s descriptions of restrictions on the market share of U.S. products in Japan, argued that market share mostly depends on supply and demand and that the U.S. accusations are misplaced.
The Japanese paper responds with: “Adopting a results-oriented approach is not consistent with international rules based on free trade.”
The paper underlines Japan’s regret over the recently revived Super 301 trade clause — a powerful provision that allows Washington to impose retaliatory sanctions on unfair trade practices by foreign countries.
In the USTR report, Washington suggests it may invoke the punitive provision in a bid to open up the Japanese insurance market.
Underlining the need for “two-way communication” in the trade dialogue between Japan and the U.S., Numata said Washington has yet to introduce the metric system widely and to reform the management of its anti-dumping measures. “It is regrettable that the U.S. has made little progress in this regard,” he said.
The government’s move Friday was made following Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura’s comment earlier in the day that the USTR report on foreign trade barriers was “inconsistent with international trade rules.”
The report, compiled annually by the USTR for submission to the White House and Congress, serves as the basis for applying Super 301 and other retaliatory trade low provisions.
On April 1, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed an executive order reinstating Super 301 retroactive to January enabling the U.S. to slap sanctions on countries believed to be maintaining serious trade barriers against U.S. goods and services.
The USTR is scheduled to issue a report later this month identifying those countries and trade practices eligible to be targeted by Super 301.