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U.S. commerce chief urges Japan carmakers to cut exports

WASHINGTON — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urged Japanese automakers Monday to reduce exports from Japan and Mexico while beefing up production in the United States so as to slash the huge U.S. trade deficit with Japan.


“Automobiles are very important to U.S. trade deficits,” he said at an event on U.S.-Japan economic relations. “Changing rules in automotives are important to reducing our trade deficits.”


While noting that Japan is a major trading partner of the United States, he said the partnership has resulted in a “very large” deficit on the U.S. part and that Washington “would like to see more balance in that relationship.”


The remarks came after U.S. President Donald Trump signaled that Japan should boost auto imports from the United States during his visit to Japan earlier this month.


“This administration is committed to trade policy that is free, fair, reciprocal and benefits both trading partners,” Ross said.


He said Japan is one of the world’s largest auto makers that rolls out “high-quality, low-priced automobiles” and voiced wonder “why the industry needs strong protection against American imports.”


Ross said the planned U.S. taxation reform featuring substantial reductions in corporate taxes would make it “even more attractive” for Japanese companies to engage in production in the United States.


He welcomed the move by Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. to jointly set up a new factory in the United States to make Corolla sedans previously scheduled for production at a plant in Mexico, calling it a “further major investment.”


Ross reiterated the U.S. policy of favoring bilateral trade deals over multilateral ones such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord, from which Trump withdrew the United States in January.


“We withdrew from a bad deal, not from the region,” he said, adding Washington will seek to promote economic benefits for it and Japan through the bilateral economic dialogue.


He said Japan and other Asian nations “routinely have spurred free trade rhetoric” but “actually are far more protectionist” than the United States.


The U.S. goods trade deficit with Japan amounted to $4.84 billion as of September, the fourth largest with its trade partners, followed by China at $34.64 billion, Mexico at $5.70 billion and Germany at $5.36 billion.

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