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The United States on Thursday praised the new government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for its pledge to drastically reform Japan’s economic structure, said Heizo Takenaka, minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy.

Takenaka met with Glenn Hubbard, who was selected by U.S. President George W. Bush to chair the Council of Economic Advisers.

“I have explained a set of structural reform policies being outlined by the Koizumi government and the CEA side praised our efforts,” Takenaka told a news conference.

Takenaka, who also spoke with other CEA officials, said he reiterated Japan’s commitment to disposing of huge nonperforming loans in the banking sector.

CEA officials underscored the need for Japan to effectively use land put up as collateral for the loans to clean up the banking mess, he said.

Takenaka said CEA officials were confident the U.S. economy would soon show steady improvement after its recent slowdown, while maintaining that it has a high growth potential, of around 3.5 percent.

USTR names Matsukata

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said Thursday his office has named Naotaka Matsukata, a Japanese-American, as special assistant for policy planning.

Matsukata served on Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s staff from April 1997 to May 2001 as a senior policy adviser.

Known as a Japan expert, Matsukata has advocated structural reform in the country. He is expected to deal with international trade in general at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Prior to joining Lieberman’s staff, Matsukata served as director of Asia-Pacific research for the Economic Strategy Institute and was a lecturer in Asian studies at the Paul Nitze School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Matsukata has a doctorate in history from Harvard University.

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