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Prying open Japan's trade door

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As most Western political and economic leaders would see it, opening up Japan's door to foreign commerce has always been a struggle. That has been true from the time of Commodore William Perry's expedition in 1854 right down to the present. Viewed in this historical context, Japan's decision last week to ease some 67 nontariff barriers as well as create a new Office of Trade Ombudsman to deal with overseas complaints can be welcomed in principle by its many trading partners.

What is important now is that Japan not only vigorously follow through on its promises but take even more meaningful steps to liberalize its trade practices. The fact is, Japan maintains huge trade surpluses with its allies. In the case of the US, for example, the surplus was $18 billion last year, surpassing the previous high of $13.5 billion in 1978.While final figures for 1981 are not yet available, Japan's 1980 surplus with Britain was a high $1.8 billion; with West Germany, $3.2 billion.

This imbalance needs rectifying. To make a significant shift in an economic system geared essentially to exports - as opposed to producing goods for domestic consumption - can only be beneficial to Japan's enterprising population by providing a greater variety of products for purchase and also helping to expand the world's trading system.


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