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President Bush's willingness to consider raising taxes in an effort to shrink the U.S. budget deficit won praise from Japan and facilitated a U.S.-Japanese agreement on a package of economic reforms.

Charles Dallara, assistant secretary of the Treasury Department for international affairs and a member of the negotiating team, said the agreements Thursday "should help reduce (trade) imbalances, lead to more efficient, open and competitive markets, promote growth, and, of central importance, enhance the quality of life in both Japan and the United States."To realize these aims, Japan committed itself to numerous market-opening measures such as reforming its distribution system, discouraging business practices that exclude foreign goods and punishing price-fixers.

Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu and Bush said a year of negotiations on the broadest economic agenda tackled by the two nations ended in success.

The agreement should result in a drop in the chronic U.S. trade deficit with Japan, which last year stood at $49 billion, in two to three years, U.S. officials said.

Bush said the commitments contained in the accord, called the Structural Impediments Initiative, would "have a positive effect" on both economies and "be benefici

"The president's decision strengthened the arguments of the U.S. delegation," said Hiroshi Hirabayashi, Japan's economic minister for the United States.