With a sharply worded statement from special trade representative Robert S. Strauss, the United States broke off negotiations yesterday with Japan for a reciprocal agreement on government procurement.
Strauss said Japanese proposals to open up government procurement to competive bidding were "wholly in adequate," and would deprive American businessmen of the kinds of opportunities open to Japanese firms.
To accept the Japanese proposals, part of the arrangements of the multilateral trade negotiations soom to go to Congress, could prejudice the whole treaty, Strauss said.
In a separate conversation, Strauss said: "I won't present a rotten apple that might spoil the whole barrell."
Strauss issued his sharp reubuff after a long session with Japan's special multilateral-trade negotiator, Nobuhiko Ushiba. Strauss said the government procurement code to be negotiated would remain open, thus presenting an opportunity for a future U.S. Japan agreement, "but not at this time, in the context of the current Japanese position."
The argument relates especially to procurement for the Nippon Telephone and Telegraph system. Strauss said the Japanese proposals would continue to exclude Amerian firms from bidding on key contracts in the field of telecommunications and electronics.
"They'll let us bid on a lot of stuff including steel telephone poles, but not in the areas where we could really do business," Strauss complained.
However, in a telephone interview, Ushiba said "the door is not closed." He said he would return to Tokyo for further discussions, expressing hope there would be some further compromise before the procurement code goes into effect in January 1981.
Ushiba said he had come here with "a substantial offer" that would open up at least $5 billion in government procurement to competitive bidding. But he conceded that Strauss had complained about the quality rather than the quantity of the offer, including the limits on N T & T procurement.