Ford Motor Co. Chairman Philip Caldwell yesterday called on Japanese auto manufacturers to shift a significant part of their automotive production to the United States and other foreign markets if it hopes to avoid a breakdown in trade relations with other industrial nations.
Caldwell, speaking to a business audience in Tokyo, used the occasion to increase the pressure on Japan to ease the imbalance in trade with other countries by opening its markets wider to foreign goods and by establishing more factories in foreign countries.
Caldwell's speech marks the first time that the Ford chairman has welcomed Japanese auto companies to compete in Ford's backyard by building auto production plants. Ford's previous effort last year was a campaign for voluntary import limits on Japanese cars, which was successful although the limit was set well above what Ford had hoped for.
Separately, U.S. Trade Representative William E. Brock yesterday made the U.S. government's first formal response to Japan's efforts to liberalize trade with other nations. Japan recently announced 67 steps to easing non-tariff barriers as well as reducing some tariffs in an effort to open its markets to foreign firms. It also appointed an ombudsman to help foreign business people with complaints about trade barriers.
"We are pleased and encouraged that the Japanese government has now taken the second in what we hope will be a series of steps to assure long-term market access to the Japanese market," Brock said in a statement. "We are waiting now for additional steps by the government of Japan to assure that their market is as open as the U.S. market."
Brock added that government officials are continuing to study the measures already taken by Japan. At a press conference later in the day with commissioners of the European Economic Community, Brock said the government for some time has considered legislation, negotiations or applying to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to solve the problem of access to Japanese markets. A final administration decision has not been made.
Caldwell's speech--coming amid crucial negotiations with the United Auto Workers over reductions in labor costs--brings Ford closer to the UAW position. The union has called for mandatory "content" legislation requiring that cars sold in this country contain a high percentage of U.S. components and labor.
But, Caldwell said, even if Japan does take increase purchases from the United States and other countries, that will not relieve the high unemployment in this country and Western Europe, much of it related to the impact of Japanese auto exports.
Meanwhile, two days of talks between U.S. and European Economic Community trade officials ended yesterday without resolving the problems of steel trade or subsidized European agricultural exports.
Brock and EEC vice president Etienne Davignon told reporters they were not negotiating any settlement of complaints brought by American steelmakers against the Europeans.
"The question is why we're still speaking about" steel, Davignon said. The EEC wants to make sure that U.S. government procedures for handling the 102 complaints brought by U.S. steel firms are proper and without political considerations. "Our high priority is to win the cases."
"I'm not sure we know how to settle the cases until some finding of fact is made," by the International Trade Commission, Brock said. "There is an effort to contain the problem."
The Commerce Department last week accepted 102 of the 132 complaints of unfair trading practices by U.S. steel companies.