Fighting back against U.S. charges of unfair trade, the Japanese government issued a report Tuesday describing Washington as a trade outlaw whose attitude "breeds vigilantes and a breakdown of order."
It was the third straight year that Japan has published the tit-for-tat report accusing the United States and other countries of trading sins, and the sharp language underlines the trouble Washington and Tokyo are likely to have in reaching a trade agreement.The report by a trade ministry panel comes a week after U.S. and Japanese negotiators agreed to resume trade talks that had been deadlocked for three months.
The United States blames closed Japanese markets for much of its yearly $60 billion trade deficit with Japan. U.S. negotiators are demanding numerical benchmarks to measure progress in opening markets, but they have fought with Japan how to make the measurements.
In March, while the talks were still frozen, President Clinton revived the "Super 301" trade law that allows the United States to retaliate against any nation it deems to be an unfair trader. U.S. trade officials cited nine countries, including Japan, and the European Union.
The Japanese report reserved its most strenuous objections for Super 301, which Tokyo has always denounced because it allows the United States to act alone without international arbitration.
"Unilateral measures risk trade wars and discredit the multilateral trade system," the report said.
The United States has argued that it must act on its own because world trade rules do not provide sufficient protection against unfair Japanese trade practices. But the report said that position "breeds vigilantes and a breakdown of order."