United States trade negotiators are keeping the heat on Japan to reduce barriers to US business there. While citing progress stemming from a bilateral agreement in June, US negotiators said more progress is needed.

After two days of talks with their Japanese counterparts, US officials said Japan should:

Strengthen antitrust laws.

Increase shareholder influence in Japanese corporations.

S. Linn Williams, deputy US trade representative, said it was too early to assess how well the June accord is working. In that agreement, Japan pledged to increase public-works spending by 63 percent over 10 years, reduce protection for small shops, and enforce criminal penalties for anti-competitive practices.

In this follow-up session of talks known as the Strategic Impediments Initiative, Williams said US delegation urged Japan to enact a ``much higher threshold of enforcement'' on antitrust laws. James Rill, assistant attorney general for antitrust, added that the US study of the application of the Sherman antitrust act to overseas buyer cartels is ``very active, very much alive.''

The negotiators also raised the issue of shareholder rights as ``one of our major focal points,'' Williams said. The issue gained public attention when American investor T. Boone Pickens failed to gain a seat on the Board of Koito, despite owning 26 percent of the company's stock.

In discussing efforts to bring the US budget deficit under control - a matter of concern to Japan - the American delegation stressed the points on which the White House and Congress agree. The two sides concur that $500 billion of deficit-reduction is needed over five years, and that there must be reform of the budget process, said John Taylor of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. Another round of talks is expected in January.

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