TOKYO, AUG. 21 -- U.S. officials, concluding a week of negotiations over several key trade issues, said today that they made some progress but not enough to dampen anti-Japanese sentiment and legislation in Congress.
Undersecretary of Commerce C. Bruce Smart said yesterday that on the basis of discussions this week with Japanese officials, he would urge Congress to kill or water down punitive provisions of a trade bill that is scheduled for consideration by a conference committee.
But he acknowledged that anger toward Japan is high and that the concessions offered this week by Japanese trade officials, while better than nothing, "may not be enough." Other officials said privately that the talks produced disappointingly few major concessions.
Smart said that the Japanese agreed to give foreign firms more time to put in bids for work on Osaka's new international airport and that trade officials agreed to press Japanese automobile manufacturers to buy more U.S. auto parts.
Osaka's $7 billion Kansai Airport has become a focal point of trade tensions with Japan, with U.S. construction firms complaining that the Japanese have structured contracts in a way that allows only Japanese firms to win them.
The complaints have been echoed of late in Congress, where trade legislation recently approved by both chambers would force retaliation against the airport.
The airport is being built by a firm in which the Japanese government owns a majority interest.
Smart said Kansai is seen by many as "a flaming symbol of Japan's unwillingness to open its markets. Japan is seen to want all the business at home, while having a lot of it overseas as well."
U.S. officials said that while Japan offered some concessions on Kansai, on the most important points -- such as requiring airport officials to consider international experience equally with experience in the Japanese market when it awards contracts -- Japanese officials "didn't budge."
In an interview with Japanese reporters today, Transportation Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said he did not know whether the concessions offered by the Japanese on Kansai would be enough for the United States.
But "we have nothing more to offer," Hashimoto said. "Any further concessions on our part would threaten the balance of our relationship with the European Community. There is no way we can possibly guarantee the participation of U.S. firms."
Smart said that the United States is only looking for "an even playing field."
Smart said he also held extensive discussions with trade officials about Japanese efforts to increase controls on exports to communist countries in the wake of disclosures that Toshiba Machine Co. illegally sold militarily useful technology to the Soviet Union.
The Japanese cabinet recently approved legislation now pending before the Diet (Japan's parliament) that would toughen penalties for illegal exports or attempts to export to communist countries.
In addition, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry will double to about 80 the number of people assigned to review export licenses to communist countries, and will study whether to increase the number even more. By contrast, the United States has more than 600 such export license reviewers.
Smart said he is convinced that there has been a "change in attitude ... certainly there is increased awareness ... of the connection between security-related trade and the need for proper controls."