CONSTANT government changes and political turmoil in Tokyo have made tough United States-Japanese commercial negotiations even more difficult, according to the top US trade emissary.
US Trade Representative Mickey Kantor told reporters at a Monitor breakfast on Friday that despite the chaos, ``we have reached more commercial agreements in a 12-month period with the Japanese than any time in history.'' Among the Clinton administration's accomplishments, he says, are US-Japan accords on apples, rice, copper and chemicals, cellular telephones, government procurement, and the ongoing framework talks designed to open Japanese sectors to US goods and services. ``If Japan had open markets like the US, it would import another $163 billion worth of goods'' a year, Mr. Kantor claims.
[Outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata assured President Clinton yesterday that he would see that domestic political difficulties did not impede progress in bilateral trade talks, Reuters reports.]
US trade ties with next-door Canada are fraying in certain areas. Kantor, who will meet with his Canadian counterpart Roy MacLaren in Chicago today, says the two North American neighbors are at odds over US objections to Canadian penetration of the US wheat market, which Washington says is unfair.
While the US has ``a strictly private setup for the production and sale of grain,'' Kantor contends, ``the Canadian Wheat Board is a monopoly operation ... therefore they have an advantage,'' he says. ``The Canadians have captured a large part of the US wheat market using these practices,'' Amabassador Kantor charges. But he plays down the friction. US-Canada trade, he says, ``is the largest trading relationship in the world community of trading nations.'' Almost ``$6 billion of the $200 billion [two-way trade] is in question. There are some concerns over the 3 percent. We hope to make progress [in the dispute of Canadian wheat imports].''
On the other US neighbor, Mexico, Kantor says he is buoyed by the early returns on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). ``Exports are increasing dramatically, imports have increased also,'' he said. For example, US auto sales to Mexico, which registered 9,000 vehicles for 1993, reached 20,000 from January through May 1994. ``The only sucking sound we've heard is the sound of US products going south.'' He is encouraged by the stability of the Mexican economy, he says. Surprisingly, he notes, ``we've had more investment from Mexico than US investment in Mexico [during the NAFTA period].''
This year, the US will send $94 billion in exports to the 12-nation European Union, compared with $88 billion worth to Latin America. Kantor says there is a ``stunning growth of our economic ties'' with Latin America.
Kantor will meet with Chilean trade official Eduardo Frei during the latter's visit to Washington tomorrow.