Trade talks between the United States and Japan resumed Monday with Clinton administration officials sounding hopeful despite the absence of evidence the Japanese will lower barriers to auto imports.
The administration is absolutely committed to breaking down barriers in Japan that deny access to competitive foreign autos and auto parts, said a U.S. official who requested anonymity.
The official said he is optimistic even though preliminary talks last week between low-level negotiators produced no real progress.
The talks resumed Monday at a higher level, led by deputy trade representatives.
Meanwhile, there is heightened concern over the sinking U.S. dollar against the Japanese yen. The dollar fell again Monday in New York and Tokyo despite plans announced in Tokyo last week to halt its slide.
The Clinton administration disclosed last week it has decided to wage an all-out assault on Japan’s auto industry, the heart of its industrial might, to broaden opportunities for U.S. manufacturers.
Officials said the administration is drawing up a target list of more than $1 billion in Japanese imports that could be subject to punitive tariffs of 100 percent if the countries fail to reach an agreement.
But U.S. officials sounded conciliatory at a news briefing prior to the new round of negotiations.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it is premature to talk about sanctions, since President Clinton has said he is prepared to take the steps necessary to get a market-opening agreement.
Japan’s market for autos and auto parts accounted for more than 60 percent of last year’s record $66 billion U.S. trade deficit with Japan. Japanese automakers have been successful in protecting their home market from car makers in the United States and elsewhere.