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Export-import chic

We have just met a peak in export-import chic, and it reminds us of the wonderful worldwide capacity to see or imagine something special when goods come from far enough away. Our present example was reported by a veteran manufacturer of made-in- America stereo equipment who has found an unexpected market in the electronic mecca of Japan. For US hi-fi buffs dreaming over the elegant ads for Japanese products it must be a bit of a shokkum to know that their counterparts in Japan want to move up to buying American. Yet this one company in the past year has sold i00 stereo speakers of classic American design to Japanese willing to pay $12,000 a pair.

Here is a rather rarefied accompaniment to such more familiar instances as the exotic appeal of American blue jeans around the globe, or the recent outbreak of American university T-shirts in the Netherlands. Not to mention the myriad examples in the other direction -- the cachet in the US of British shoes for men, Scandinavian cheeses, airlifted Swiss chocolates, to name a few.

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To be sure, in some places the products of other nations are dismissed the way "cheap Japanese merchandise" used to be. But it seems to be only human to leave prophets without honor in their own country and send profits with honor to countries that may or may not have built a better mousetrap.

Does the impulse go back to those cargo cults of remote islanders ready to place impossible hopes in new things brought to their shores out of the blue? It's probably simpler or more complicated than that. Anyway, with all those Boston ads for South Korean TV sets to ch eck out, we don't have time to be definitive.

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