The Japanese government's new package of trade concessions does not go far enough to satisfy the United States, a U.S. official said today.
"There is a wide gap remaining to be bridged," the official said.
In a similar vein, the Japanese official who will take the new trade package to Washington for negotiations this weekend said that they probably will not meet guidelines laid down by Robert Strauss, the U.S. special trade representative.
Asked if he thought his presentation would satisfy Strauss, Nobohiko Ushiba, special minister for external economic affairs, said. "It may be rather difficult, I think."
His pessimism was underscored when he lunched today with U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield. Ushiba told Mansfield that "he was not going off to Washington with a very large package and expects a difficult time in Washington," according to the U.S. economic minister here, Jack B. Button.
The comments of both U.S. and Japanese officials indicated that the two countries are now too far apart to reach a settlement by the American-imposed deadline of the end of this year.
The U.S. side has warned that unless Japan offered satisfactory promises by then it would be difficult to combat a wave of protectionist measures in the U.S. Congress in January.
In a meeting with foreign reporters, however, Ushiba had clearly abandoned much of his former optimism about resolving the issue. Last week he had cheerfully predicted that the government's package woul contrain large concessions to the United States. Reminded of that prediction, Ushiba said. "I may have a little bit overstated the case." Referring to his trip to Washington, Ushiba said, "I am not going there to solve everything. That's for sure."
The Japanese government this week agreed on several measures designed to increase imports into Japan and ease the pressures coming from the United States and Europe which want Japan's large trade surplus eliminated.
Although the details have not been formally disclosed, the general outlines have emerged in th press and have been confirmed by government officials.
They include reductions of between 10 and 20 per cent of tariffs on some 300 imported times and more than 20 per cent in some cases. There would also be larger quotas for some of the 27 categories of goods whose quotas would be lifted completed on only a few minor items.
The Japanese plan also contemplates more tariff reductions during multilateral negotiations next year. It promises to simplify some of the procedural and financial problems that have made trading with Japan difficult for foreigners.
The Japanese plan makes only minimal concessions on imports of beef and agricultural commodities, largely because of a last-minute surge of pressure from farm lobbies which expressed fear of foreign competition.
The most important shortcoming, in the view of U.S. officials, is the Japanese failure to state an intention to eliminate the surplus in its current accounts, which is expected to run nearly $10 billion this fiscal year.
The Americans have insisted for weeks that Japans should commit its policies to wiping out the surplus completely by importing more goods and at times have demanded a deadline for that to be done.
Japan's resistance to that demand was emphasized by Ushiba in his meeting with the foreign reporters. Asked if the Japanese plan would contain a commitmeny to reach a deficit in current accounts, Ushiba said:
"No, I don't think so. Who can commit going into deficit? No country in the world, I think." He said that the amount of imports and exports is determined by private companies, not by the government.
According to press reports, the most Japan is willing to promise is to reduce the current accounts surplus by about one-half during the next fiscal year the begins April 1. That would mean a surplus of about $5 billion or $6 billion by early 1979. Asked how such a promise would be viewed in Washington, a U.S. official said, "No one is going to be happy about that."
Although both sides talked of remaining flexible in the next series of talks, it appeared that Ushiba has very little negotiating room.
He reportedly told Mansfield today that in Washington he will attempt to impress on U.S. officials that Prime Minister Takeo Fkuda had found it diffficult to come up with as beign a package as he did.
He planned to stress that under any circumstance Fukuda has limited power to order changes in Japan's economic structure, according to a U.S. official.
Ushiba, who was ambassador to the United States in the early 1970s, suggested that he felt American negotiators had changed the ground rules of the trade debate in the last few months.
He recalled a mission by top U.S. officials in September and said they ahad talked then it terms of the "global problem" of trade. Since then, the Americans have shifted the focus "to insist on Japan buying U.S. goods," he asserted.