While I agree with Hobart Rowen that the United States and Japan have built an amazingly strong symbiotic economy {Business, Jan. 24}, I am dismayed at the lack of concern by so many Americans toward taking any action to deal with the vast trade imbalance that exists between our two countries. Almost all Americans seem to believe it is somebody else's problem and appear totally heedless of their own role in creating the problem.

There are many enticing Japanese products that Americans seem not to be able to live without. We think only about our immediate needs and the possible saving of a few dollars rather than considering the purchase of an equivalent U.S. product.

A large chunk of the $60 billion (excess dollars) we ship to Japan each year is to buy from Japan products that could have been bought from U.S. companies -- products that are well made and essentially the same price.

While Congress debates the enactment of anti-Japanese legislation (and presidential candidates outdo each other in promising protection), we forgo the mightiest weapon of all: the individual purchasing options of a hundred million U.S. buyers of Japanese goods. Neither government spokesmen nor those from industry -- let alone professional economists -- have spoken out to attract support for a policy of "Think before you buy." Here is an area in which learning to "Just say no" could produce huge dividends in the trade balance. I refer to the purchase of Japanese automobiles, bicycles, motorcycles, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, etc., when perfectly satisfactory American alternatives exist at competitive prices and quality.

What passes for conventional wisdom in this country holds that practically all U.S. products are poorly made and overpriced. Besides, "we've got to teach the automobile companies a lesson." I think it's time to adopt some real wisdom. The blind condemnation of U.S. products -- and, by implication, the condemnation of our fellow Americans -- leads to buying decisions that are leading to disaster.

Imagine that the trade balance problem were reversed. Every Japanese government official, every news commentator, every teacher in the classroom would instruct his listeners on what to do to right the imbalance.

While we Americans would probably not make very good Japanese citizens, we could very well emulate their sense of discipline in economic matters. If the alternative to developing some self-discipline regarding our current indiscriminate buying of Japanese goods is to become a second-rate economic power, isn't it time we gave ourselves a healthy dose of such discipline by learning to say no to Japanese goods? JOHN L. McLUCAS Alexandria