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US and Japan Continue Trade Wrangling

JAPANESE viewers received a taste of stalled United States-Japan trade talks Sunday as top officials from each side traded barbs on television.

The on-the-air wrangling illustrated how far the two sides are from the accord that is supposed to be ready when Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa meets President Clinton in Washington this Friday. ``It has been a great disappointment to us that we have not been met halfway in our clear desire for a cooperative effort,'' said Bowman Cutter, deputy director of the National Economic Council, on the Japan Broadcasting Corporation's ``Debate'' program.

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Mr. Cutter repeated the US demand that the agreement specify numerical benchmarks in areas such as sales of American cars and insurance in Japan. But Trade Minister Hiroshi Kumagai said if Japan agrees to numbers, it will have to ``ignore economic conditions and consumer trends'' by forcing businesses to buy American. ``There's no way we can do that,'' he said.

Cutter replied that the Japanese government could do enough on its own to improve access for foreign goods in Japan without having to interfere in private businesses.

``It does harm to the negotiations, to the possibilities of a successful summit, to pose that as sort of a false obstacle,'' he said.

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