United auto Workers union President Douglas Fraser and a Ford Motor Co. executive will urge Congress today to pass legislation authorizing the president to negotiate with Japan in an effort to prod that government into restricting auto exports to the United States.
The hearing was scheduled by Rep. Charles A. Vanik (D-Ohio) after the International Trade Commission ruled Nov. 10 that imported cars aren't the major cause of Detroit's problems -- precluding the industry from obtaining formal quotas on Japanese imports.
Also tentatively scheduled to testify on the emotionally charged issue are Commerce Secretary Philip M. Klutznick, Transportation Secretary Neil Goldschmidt, U.S. Traded Representative Reubin Askew, three senators, six congressmen and a bevy of auto importers.
Union officials, though disappointed by the ITC ruling, were not discouraged, "We're going to solve this problem," a UAW spokesman asserted. "We're not going to let the auto industry be destroyed or our people killed." He said the hearing "is an important chance, but it's not a last chance."
UAW and Ford spokesmen yesterday said that rather than seeking other types of legislation, they will press for passage of resolutions giving the president authority to negotiate import relief with the Japanese. Carter contends now he does not have any such powers.
The committee isn't expected to vote on any legislation today. "There is a lot of emotion on this issue and it's unclear what will happen," one insider said.
The UAW and Ford had asked the ITC to declare that imports were a substantial cause of their recent difficulties, which have resulted in record losses by the major automakers and the layoff of 200,000 workers this year.
They argued the industry needed formal protection from imports for five years to allow it time to retool and modernize plants to build small cars that could compete with Japan's.
The Americans, however, aren't the only ones concerned about the Japanese threat. The European and Japanese auto industries also will meet today to discuss the influx of Japanese autos into European markets, according to a spokesman for the European Economic Community.
However, the European meeting won't be "aimed at negotiating any kind of agreement restricting the export of Japanese cars to the EEC," according to a statement issued yesterday. "The object of the meeting to be held in Tokyo is an exchange of information on the current situation of the world car markets," the EEC said.
In addition, the Eec and U.S. government officials today are ending their semiannual meeting in which the auto issue is supposed to be a central issue. However, no agreement is expected from those talks because the Cartre issue. However, no agreement is expected from those talks because the Carter administration is on it way out and the EEC commission will change at the end of the year.
In a related area, U.S. Trade Representative Reubin Askew yesterday made public a letter from Rokusuke Tanaka, Japan's minister of international trade and industry, saying that the Japanese will:
Try to improve access to Japan's markets for imports of automobile and automobile parts.
Encourage the Japanese auto industry to "make economically viable investments in the U.S. and realize economically viable co-production activities with the U.S. auto industry." and
Attempt to expand the planned purchases of American automotive parts "to help create future job opportunities in the U.S."
"The ITC's decision notwithstanding," Tanaka said, "the Japanese government expects the Japanese auto makers to exercise prudence in their future exports to the U.S., taking into account the current situation of the U.S. auto industry."