U.S. business envoy warns against protectionism amid economic woes


Japan should steer clear of protectionism and use its extraordinary wealth to stimulate its economy and become a much larger player in the global trading system, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Friday in Tokyo.

Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the USCC, expressed alarm that increased protectionism in the face of the economic crisis will only drive the global economy further down.

“Through the end of 2009 we will start to come out of this,” Donohue said of the recession during a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, adding that Japan and the United States have a large role to play with their interdependent economies.

Regarding Japan’s domestic stimulus package, Donohue said the government must study what actions to take to move its financial system in the right direction.

“We don’t use, in our stimulus program, things that look good, sound good, are very populist, but are not going to move anybody off their cash and that are not going to create any jobs,” he said.

Donohue said he hasn’t been able to judge how the Democratic Party of Japan will effect ties between Tokyo and Washington if it replaces the Liberal Democratic Party as the ruling party in the Diet, but assured that he will be following Japan’s domestic political scene closely.

Donohue, who has headed the USCC since 1997, was in Tokyo following visits to both Beijing and Seoul, where he discussed the recession and how to restore the global economy with local business and political leaders.

“I expect to spend a lot more time in Asia,” Donohue said, explaining that the region accounts for half of the global economy and that most of the major members of the USCC are engaged in business.

Asked if the U.S. is likely to embrace the rapidly developing China over Japan, the envoy said that each relationship is indispensable.

“Everywhere you go around Asia, you are always baited with a question similar to that. It’s sort of ‘daddy, do you love me more than my sister or my brother,’ ” Donohue told reporters.

“We love you all equally but differently,” he said, adding that ties with Japan remain deep, rich and successful, while acknowledging that the U.S. is interested in a vigorous economic and geopolitical relationship with China.

Donohue also expressed hope with President-elect Barack Obama’s economic policies, saying he has appointed experienced and protrade members to his team.

The USCC will do everything it can to help the new president and his team jump-start the economy and get it moving again, he said.