Foreign business leaders made progress this afternoon in their efforts to affect decisions concerning Japan's foreign trade when they testified for the first time before an influential council that advises the Japanese government on industrial policy.

Robert L. Sharp, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and three European business leaders presented their views on government-sponsored research and development. The U.S. government earlier had pushed for full membership for foreigners on the Industrial Structure Council, which advises the powerful Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

The Japanese government refused that request, but agreed that foreigners could appear as "expert witnesses" at council meetings. Although foreign business people here generally do not feel that important decisions are made in the council's open forum, the opportunity to address it is seen as progress.

Sharp made his remarks to a joint subcommittee of the Industrial Structure Council and the Industrial Technology Council, another advisory body. In his statement, which was translated simultaneously, he called for foreign firms to have full rights to participate in government-sponsored research programs.

The director of the council's secretariat staff said that participants had found the 2 1/2-hour meeting "very constructive."