Tension has grown, during recent months, between United States and Japanese trade officials. This follows?
Tension has grown, during recent months, between United States and Japanese trade officials. This follows a move by the U.S. to pass a bill through Congress which, if passed, will impose restrictive quotas on textile and shoe imports and empower the President to restrict other products likely to harm local industries. Japan, America's biggest overseas customer, is annoyed and concerned at the move which could have a drastic effect on its textile exports. Trade missions from Japan have been lobbying in the U.S. where opponents believe protectionist measure such as the Mills Bill could have such far-reaction effects as to precipitate a "trade war" with Europe's Common Market.
Despite recent complaints and irritations, the postwar US-Japan trading relationship has been a phenomenal success story. This year's two-way trade will total more than ten billion dollars. There are 130,000 textile firms in Japan. More than a million and a half workers...almost 16 percent of Japan's labour force is in textiles. Fukui prefecture on the Japan coast has for centuries been the centre of Japan's textile industry. If the textile talks break down and the Mills Bill goes through Congress, areas like Fukui will be hardest hit.
One reason for the present tough Japanese attitude in the talks is that Japan's own textile industry is in trouble. In faces stiff competition from Asian nations like Korea, Formosa and Hong Kong, where labour is cheaper. The government is sensitive to the textile industry's problem as unemployment means loss of votes. Businessmen claim that the textile industry in the U.S. has not proved that it's being hurt. They insist they will not make one-sided deals, or sell-out to U.S. interests.
The textile dispute comes at a time when other Japan-U.S. trade aggravations are coming to be a head. American businessmen complain that Japan is the most "protectionist" of all the world's major economic powers. They say Japanese goods flood the American market, while Japan maintains exorbitantly-high tariff quotas and other restrictions against foreign imports. An unusual bi-product of the American complaint has been a consumer revolt in Japan. Only after the U.S. pressed dumping charges against Japanese T.V. makers, did Japanese consumers discover that San Franciscans could buy Japanese made sets for only half what they cost in Tokyo stores. Consumer groups started boycotts and demonstrations, and, in what for Japan is a historic first, they forced the T.V. industry to cut prices.
The Japanese have many ways in which they can retaliate against U.S. moves. They can buy their raw materials elsewhere. Last year (1969) they bought more than a billion dollars-worth of U.S. agricultural products, and are big customers for American commercial aircraft. For both sides, the stakes in the trading partnership are high. The Japanese link economics and politics more closely than the Americans, therefore the present dispute could have not only disastrous economic effects, but, in the long run, may bring undesirable political repercussions.