Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki has conveyed to President Reagan his "deep concern" over American legislative efforts to enforce bilateral trade "reciprocity," Japanese Minister Masumi Esaki said here in an interview yesterday.
The "reciprocity" move in Congress contemplates a limitation on access to the U.S. market by exporting nations, unless they provide the same access to their markets for American goods. Esaki said he had delivered a letter from Suzuki to Reagan at a White House session Tuesday, in which the Japanese prime minister said that reciprocity is protectionism in disguise.
Count Otto Lambsdorf, the West German Economics minister, said much the same thing in a National Press Club speech yesterday. Lambsdorf argued that any form of protectionism--he included reciprocity as "sheer protectionism"--would be counterproductive as a means of meeting competition from Japan.
Esaki, newly designated as chairman of a top-level Committee on International Economic Measures of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, reported that Reagan responded that "he feels the same way" about the threat of protectionism. But Reagan did not comment directly--as Suzuki had done--on the reciprocity approach.
In his Press Club speech, Lambsdorf said the European Commission, like the U.S. government, will continue to urge Japan to open its markets wider. "But if Europeans hide behind quotas and restrictions," he said in response to a question from the audience, "we will lose our competitiveness."
Lambsdorf also needled the large U.S. steel companies that have filed antidumping suits against European companies. The "slump in the American steel market," he suggested, is probably not due to European competition but due to the U.S. recession.
Lambsdorf also cautioned the United States against denying export licenses for pipe-laying machinery in an efffort to frustrate West Germany's gas pipeline deal with the Soviet Union. "That would be a dangerous development for world trade," he said. "Such a decision should be thought through about three times."