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Tokyo Fizzle

BUSH administration hopes for a successful high-noon showdown in Tokyo over trade, with the president taking the heroic Gary Cooper role, were quickly trounced. The final cut of George Bush's Asia trip seemed more like a bad "B-Movie."

The Japan visit, obviously made for US domestic consumption, fizzled on both trade issues and public relations. The "jobs, jobs, jobs" Mr. Bush hoped to press out of his hosts via more open markets are not likely to ma-terialize soon; a $10 billion gain in auto parts trade by 1995 will help, but it wasn't a trade coup.

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At home, the president's unfortunate illness during a state dinner focused unwanted attention on the role of Vice President Dan Quayle in next fall's election. Moreover, Americans are quite skeptical that the Japan trip will help curb the US recession.

The Japanese, of course, could not afford to be discourteous to Bush. They may have found it uncomfortable to watch the US president bang his cup in "severe" talks over auto parts, a covey of CEOs in tow. The lead editorial in Asahi Evening News was headlined, "The Ill-Mannered Visitor." But Japanese officials prefer Bush to any of his challengers.

In areas of diplomacy the leaders agreed to all the right and obligatory statements. A "Tokyo declaration" was issued on "cooperation to promote world peace and prosperity." The will to jointly support nations undergoing a transition to democracy, help those in turmoil (the Middle East), and aid developing nations was affirmed.

Still, Bush made it known to the US's No. 1 trading partner that Washington is unhappy with what it perceives as inequities and unfair practices. This was a useful step, even if the approach and tactics were questionable. More patient and strategic approaches are needed, given the importance of US-Japan relations. Tokyo doesn't respond well to sudden high-profile demands, nor should it.

But some Japanese practices should change. Take auto parts. These were the subject of the most contentious negotiations because they are an area in which US companies can compete.

Currently, the closed and insular Japanese corporate world does not allow for outside manufacture. Americans could sell auto parts cheaply, were they able to get specifications. US manufacturers ought to be allowed to start making certain agreed-upon parts.

Sound US-Japanese relations will require adapting vastly different systems and philosophies in a more gracious manner. At home, Bush should talk about improving products. The main reason the Japanese are selling more is because their products are better.

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