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ECONOMICS REPORT - US Presses Japan on Farm Imports and India on World Trade Talks

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This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

The United States has put new pressure on Japan to import more farm goods from American companies. The American ambassador to Japan said if Japan does not open its markets, then "we will just put our resources in other places."

Thomas Schieffer
Thomas Schieffer

Ambassador Thomas Schieffer gave that warning in a speech Wednesday to business leaders in Tokyo.

He also urged the Japanese to permit more foreign investment. Among the most developed countries, Japan still has the lowest level of foreign direct investment in relation to the size of its economy.

Food prices in Japan are among the highest in the world as a result of efforts to protect Japanese farmers. Japan imports more than half of its food. But it places high customs and other restrictions on many products, especially rice, fruit and beef.

Ambassador Schieffer said he recognizes the emotions involved in the debate over widening the market for agricultural imports. He noted that many Japanese still remember when Japan did not produce a lot of food after World War Two.

But he also noted that the average age of a Japanese farmer is seventy. He said Japan will someday have no choice but to accept more imports.

The American ambassador said the dispute over agricultural trade is blocking greater economic cooperation with Japan. But international farm trade was also the main issue that led to the suspension of World Trade Organization talks last year.

This week, American Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez was in New Delhi to urge Indian officials to do more to help restart those talks. The United States is India's largest trading partner. But India's governing coalition depends on support from two communist parties that oppose trade liberalization.

Also, developing nations want the United States, the European Union and countries such as Japan to make more cuts in farm protections. They say these give farmers in rich nations an unfair position. The commerce secretary said the United States is willing to compromise. But in return, he said, developing nations must do the same on trade in manufactured goods and services.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the United States had another record trade deficit last year, for the fifth straight year. The deficit in goods and services was more than seven hundred sixty billion dollars. Exports rose faster than imports, but high oil prices added to the deficit. And almost one-third of it was a record trade imbalance with China.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. I'm Steve Ember.

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