President Clinton refused to back down from his threat to slap punitive tariffs on Japanese luxury cars if Japan does not open its markets to American auto firms, but he still had no success in a summit meeting here Thursday at winning concessions from Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.
Clinton and Murayama both said they hoped that U.S. and Japanese negotiators could make progress next week in last-ditch talks set for Geneva. They promised to “redouble” their efforts and do their “utmost” to resolve the issue.
“What is important is that we do not engage in talks with both of our fists raised,” Murayama said.
“No one difference will allow us to undermine our alliance,” Clinton said.
But no breakthroughs took place in the headto-head meeting to raise hopes that a marketshaking showdown might be averted before the June 28 deadline, U.S. officials said.
“I am determined to carry through on my effort to open Japan’s auto markets,” Clinton said after the meeting was over. “I did not and will not agree to extend the deadline.”
When asked if he was ready to pay the economic price in U.S. jobs if Japan levels its own sanctions in retaliation, Clinton said that he has “considered the alternatives, and I believe we’re on the right course.”
Murayama, for his part, declined to recognize the U.S. right to levy unilateral sanctions under Section 301 of US trade law.
“I asked for expeditious removal of the unilateral measures since they violate the rules and the spirit of the World Trade Organization,” Murayama said.
“If both sides remain stuck into their principles, there will be no talks,” he warned.
The president’s meeting with Murayama took place on the first day of a three-day summit meeting here by the leaders of the world’s seven industrial giants - the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada. Collectively known as the Group of Seven, they will be joined by Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Friday.
Clinton and Murayama met in a woodpaneled room at Dalhousie University, accompanied by their trade negotiators, foreign ministers and economic advisers. Although the auto issue dominated the post-summit press conference, the two leaders also discussed areas of mutual cooperation and success, such as the hard-won nuclear agreement with North Korea.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher also met Thursday with his Japanese counterpart - Foreign Minister Yohei Kono - and pressed the U.S. position.
“The secretary made it clear that June 28 is a deadline, not a target or a goal,” said an administration official, when asked about speculation here that Japan might seek an extenstion.
Christopher and Kono also sparred about another simmering issue that Clinton took up with Murayama: Japan’s reluctance to grant Federal Express the air rights it needs to expand its operation in Asia.