• Kyodo

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Two U.S. senators have proposed a bill aimed at opening up the Japanese and South Korean markets for automobiles and auto parts by introducing a target of a 10 percent foreign share, Japanese government and industry officials said Monday.

The bill, proposed last week by Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, and George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, said the principal negotiating objective of the United States in the automotive sector is to increase market access for U.S. vehicles and parts in foreign markets, especially Japan and South Korea.

It would call on the U.S. government to negotiate market-opening agreements with any member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development where imported cars make up less than 10 percent of the market.

The Paris-based OECD consists of 30 advanced countries, including Japan and South Korea.

According to the Japan Automobile Imports Association, foreign cars accounted for 8.8 percent of the overall Japanese automobile market in 2001.

The bill was proposed in the form of an amendment to legislation for the renewal of the 1991 U.S. Andean Trade Preference Act. The act, aimed at offering low tariffs for selected products from Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru as an incentive for them to crack down on drug-trafficking, expired in December.

The amendment could be voted on as early as Thursday.

Sources said that while top Republicans are opposed to the auto amendment, it is unknown how popular the move will be.

Japanese government and auto industry officials have been lobbying hard against the amendment.

There have been growing moves in Congress to present bills intended to gain support from industry groups and unions ahead of midterm elections in November.

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