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In Latrobe, Pa., an auto dealer angered by Japanese officials' remarks on American work habits is charging motorists $1 to take a whack at an old Japanese-made Honda Civic with a sledgehammer.

A suburban Detroit judge recently restored the driver's license of a professional test driver who piled up too many speeding tickets, but stipulated that he test-drive only American-made cars henceforth.In Wayne, Mich., United Auto Workers members have begun to enforce an arrangement whereby Japanese and other non-Ford vehicles, and those built at non-UAW plants, must park in a special less convenient lot at the Ford plant.

Elsewhere, some American employers are offering workers bonuses to buy Detroit's cars, and public agencies are becoming reluctant to award contracts to Japanese bidders even if the U.S. bids are inferior.

And so it goes with the latest American fad called Japan bashing - a trend sure to be heightened by the Japanese prime minister's rash claim this week that American workers "lack a work ethic." It's a trend fed partly by patriotism and partly by the perception that Japan discriminates unfairly against American products.

But it's a misperception that needs to be corrected if overheated emotions are to be cooled so that U.S. trade policies can be put and kept on a rational basis. Consider a few key facts about those supposedly tough, biased Japanese trade barriers:

Despite them, Kodak film is sold at nearly every camera stand in Tokyo, and IBM computers are a hit with Japanese consumers. U.S. oranges, banned three years ago, can now be found on grocery shelves from Sapporo to Kagoshima. Fliers in Japanese supermarkets advertise sales of 100 percent American "hamburgura."

To fly Japan Air Lines, as the Boston Globe reported a few days ago, is to board a U.S.-built Boeing. American-made medical diagnostic equipment is standard in many Japanese clinics and hospitals. In Tokyo and other major cities, Domino's Pizza delivers. About 40 percent of the revenue from at least one Silicon Valley company called Applied Materials Inc. comes from it sales to the Japanese. Other U.S. firms willing to set up plants in Japan are doing well, too.

Then consider the extent to which auto firms in other countries have cracked the Japanese market. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other cars made in Europe are doing booming business in Tokyo. No, American car firms are not doing well in Japan - but then they are not doing well in selling to American customers either.

Finally, consider how difficult it would be to apply the "Buy American only" campaign being pushed in some quarters. Under such a policy, how would one treat Hondas made in the United States or Plymouth Voyagers made in Canada? The popular Dodge Colt is made in Japan. In fact, a General Motors car may have more Japanese components than a Japanese car.

From these facts, a few lessons should be clear.

One of them is that the Japanese market can be cracked; plenty of firms in the United States and elsewhere have done so.

Another lesson is that, in an increasingly interrelated global economy, it isn't always easy to tell which product is American and which is not. General Motors itself, for example, has 24 plants in Mexico alone.

Still another is that it is not in the interests of American consumers or of the American government to subsidize inefficiency in American industries. Nothing is wrong with buying foreign products if their quality is superior and their prices lower or more competitive.

Finally, the best way to prosperity is for the United States to keep competing vigorously in a growing world market as plenty of American firms outside Detroit are doing. That can be done without waving the flag or indulging in the ugly, xenophobic bashing that has surfaced recently.