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JAPAN BOOSTS PURCHASE OF U.S. AUTO PARTS

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Japanese purchases of U.S. auto parts rose 14 percent to $15.5 billion in the fiscal year ended March 31, an industry group reported Tuesday.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said the increase came despite a decline in auto production in Japan and a leveling off of production at Japanese-owned plants in the United States. The previous year's purchases came to $13.6 billion.Trade in autos and auto parts is a key area of tension between Tokyo and Washington, since more than two-thirds of Japan's $60 billion annual surplus with the United States is in the automotive sector.

Broadening foreign access to Japan's auto market is a top issue in the current trade negotiations between the two countries.

The association said Japanese automakers are now doing business with more than 1,200 parts suppliers in the United States, up from 300 in early 1987.

The industry has been under heavy pressure from Washington to increase purchases of U.S. parts, particularly for U.S.-based plants.