• Kyodo

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Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Wednesday he would strongly urge Mitsubishi Motors Corp. of Japan to maintain its car manufacturing operation in Adelaide during his two-day visit to Tokyo starting today.

Howard’s remarks at a National Press Club luncheon in Canberra followed reports from Japan the previous night that Mitsubishi, an affiliate of German-U.S. giant DaimlerChrysler AG, was planning to ditch its struggling Adelaide operation as part of its global restructuring program.

He said that while he had not been informed of any decision by Mitsubishi to close the Adelaide plant, he would address the issue during a meeting in Tokyo with Mitsubishi’s Chief Operating Officer Rolf Eckrodt.

“I would certainly be advocating very strongly that what the government has provided both at a federal and state level has been extremely generous and contains many incentives and assurances for a continued heavy investment by Mitsubishi in Australia,” Howard said.

He said Mitsubishi’s Australian subsidiary had benefited enormously from recent tax changes, including the removal of a wholesale sales tax on cars, as well as a loan of 20 million Australian dollars (about 1.27 billion yen) by the South Australia government. “We want (Mitsubishi) to stay in Australia,” he said. “We think we have a better economic and a much better lifestyle climate as well, and I’ll be putting all of those propositions to the company.”

Mitsubishi’s two factories in Adelaide employ about 4,000 people and are vital to the South Australia state economy.

The Australian Financial Review reported Tuesday that Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd. was on track to report a profit in the 2001 calendar year due to a rise in exports and favorable exchange rates. In 2000, Mitsubishi’s Australian operations recorded a loss of A$186.4 million on revenues of A$2.53 billion.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley said Tuesday he would uphold any incentives offered by Howard to Mitsubishi to maintain its manufacturing operations if the opposition wins elections due before yearend.

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