Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi will not be overshadowed by economic issues in his upcoming talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton now that the two governments have made a breakthrough in bilateral trade talks, a former Japanese ambassador said Tuesday.

The Lower House’s passage of bills to implement updated Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines will put Obuchi in a stronger position to deal with Clinton, former Ambassador to Washington Yoshio Okawara said.

When Obuchi meets with Clinton May 3, the two leaders will discuss policy issues ranging from Asian security and environmental preservation to the Kosovo crisis “without being bothered by immediate frictions … in economic relations,” Okawara said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

The recent breakthrough in telecommunications, pharmaceutical and other deregulation-related issues has laid the groundwork for a successful visit, Okawara said.

In addition, Obuchi can present the defense guidelines bills as an “omiyage,” or a souvenir, to Clinton, he said.

Okawara said Obuchi certainly wanted the bills passed before the visit because “otherwise, his explanation in Washington might not be as convincing as it should be.”

To help him do the convincing, Obuchi is having some of Japan’s top business leaders accompany him to Washington to persuade American leaders that Japan’s efforts are effectively stimulating the economy.

Obuchi wanted business leaders “to tell for themselves, in their own words,” how they view Japan’s economic situation and the policy measures taken by the government, Okawara said.

Obuchi was once described by the foreign press as “cold pizza.” But this time around, Okawara said, “American people will see much warmer and more presentable pizza.”

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