EVEN before arriving in Tokyo last night, United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher was confronted by Pacific Rim concerns over Washington's hardening trade stance against Japan.
Mr. Christopher opened his Asia-Pacific trip with a two-day stop in Australia to discuss security and economic issues with his Australian counterpart, Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.
But after talks that reaffirmed the two countries' security alliance, the Australians raised concerns that US attempts to wedge open Japanese markets will harm secondary markets, including those here, and sought reassurance that would not be the case.
Speaking at a press conference here, Winston Lord, the US assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs tried to ease those concerns. ``Our objectives with Japan are to open up Japan's market, and to the extent we do that, we benefit everyone, including the Australians,'' he said.
But Mr. Evans was skeptical. ``I understand that is the Americans' intent. The difficulty will be in seeing if that results in practice,'' he said.
Japan is Australia's No. 1 trading partner, and Australia enjoys a $5.2 billion surplus with Japan. Australians are thus less concerned than the US about a more open Japan. Australians say that what they would like is more open access to US markets, rather than access, through US efforts, to other countries' markets. That, they say with frustration, remains out of reach.