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U.S. ENVOY PREDICTS JAPAN WILL NEGOTIATE OVER TRADE BARRIERS

SHARE U.S. ENVOY PREDICTS JAPAN WILL NEGOTIATE OVER TRADE BARRIERS

U.S. Ambassador Michael Armacost said Thursday he expects Tokyo to negotiate with the United States on removing trade barriers despite Japan's initial anger at being accused of unfair trading practices.

Armacost, in his first news conference since succeeding Mike Mansfield as ambassador, praised Japanese companies for challenging corporate America but said Washington wanted a "fair playing field."The Bush administration charged Japan last week with unfairly restricting imports of satellites, forest products and supercomputers, and of other actions that impede imports.

U.S. officials say the restrictions and other trading practices have led to a bloated trade surplus with the United States - $55.4 billion in 1988 - although the figure was $4.4 billion lower than that of 1987.

President Bush, under the terms of the 1988 Trade Reform Law's Super 301 section, must negotiate with Japan to remove the barriers or retaliate against Japanese exports to the United States.

Japanese officials, angered at being singled out, said they will not negotiate directly with the United States and suggested the United States should pursue its complaint through an international trade organization.

"I expect that we will engage in consultations directed toward the problems," said Armacost, 52, a former ambassador to the Philippines and career diplomat.

"It is in the interest of both governments to manage these problems in a way that is consistent with the broad alliance and friendly relationship," he said.

"As we come to trade, our desire is to have a fair playing field and a big playing field," Armacost said.

"The law requires that the administration identify those factors which we think, if removed, would have a salutary effect both in terms of relieving the deficit and establishing a precedent for the removal of such obstacles in other markets," Armacost said.

Armacost said the mood in Congress is becoming more critical of Japan but that Americans in general admire the country.

"There is a growing admiration for what Japan has done," he said.

Armacost said people vote with their pocketbooks and in America Japanese products have become synonomous with quality.

"That is why we like to buy your products," he said.

"Japan's success means we have to work harder," he said.

He was reluctant to comment on the influence-peddling scandal that toppled the government of Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and led to the selection by ruling party leaders Wednesday of Foreign Minister Sosuke Uno as the next prime minister.