MANUEL LUJAN JR., the secretary of the interior, doesn't think that a Japanese company ought to be allowed to run the concessions in Yosemite Park. The concessions -- the restaurants, hotels, camping grounds and so forth -- belong to a subsidiary of MCA Inc., and now MCA has been bought by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Several separate issues are tangled together here, and the secretary's scarcely veiled appeal to prejudice does little to straighten them out.
The Bush administration, and the Reagan administration before it, have been working with great energy to open up international markets in investment and services. Those are primary goals for the United States in the Uruguay Round of world trade negotiations, which will either succeed or finally fail within the next few weeks. When Japan tries to do to American companies what Mr. Lujan wants to do to Matsushita, President Bush's trade negotiators object sharply -- and rightly.
For some time Mr. Lujan and the Interior Department have been trying to change relations between the parks and the concessionaires in general. The department thinks that some of the concessionaires have become too influential in the management of the parks and are returning too little of their profits to the public. That's a legitimate objection, and it involves all the concessionaires regardless of nationality.
The department also argues that Matsushita itself offered to sell the Yosemite concessions to another operator, and the only question is the terms. Officials further suggest that MCA may already have breached its contract with the government by being taken over -- in effect, changing the concessions' ownership without the required approval of the government. Those issues can be left to the lawyers.
But beyond all the other objections there is Mr. Lujan's assertion that a Japanese company, for purely symbolic reasons, shouldn't be allowed to run the concessions in a great American park. In his words you can hear all kinds of unpleasant echoes, including those of the Japanese politicians who explain that their market can't possibly be opened to foreign rice sales because of the deep and mystical significance of rice for Japanese culture.
In every country, a lot of people have endless reasons for keeping foreigners out of this activity or that one. Among their other objectionable features, these reasons add up to a world economy in decline. Fortunately, Mr. Bush's trade policy and we would hope his instincts generally are aimed in the opposite direction.