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Lifezette: Domestic Manufacturers Target Japan Trade Ahead of Abe Visit to White House.

By Kevin L. Kearns
Thursday, February 09, 2017

Manufacturing group launches ad campaign against Japan’s currency tricks.

As President Trump prepares to welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for White House talks, domestic manufacturers are spotlighting Tokyo’s longstanding practice of currency manipulation and other trade barriers. The U.S. Business and Industry Council (USBIC), which represents smaller domestic producers, has launched a series of “Brick Wall” ads in Beltway media outlets. The ad campaign urges President Trump to take a hard line on Japan’s ongoing currency cheating before considering any new trade deals.

Said USBIC President Kevin L. Kearns, “Prime Minister Abe is bringing a five-point plan for Japanese investment in the U.S. But that plan will undoubtedly omit any mention of the trade barriers that Tokyo continually employs to take market share from U.S. manufactures of vehicles, auto parts, and other equipment. President Trump needs to be vigilant and forceful when meeting with Mr. Abe. Yes, it’s important that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been halted, but there’s a lot more to fix regarding Asia-Pacific trade.”

The ad buys will appear in Politico, The Hill, and Breitbart, and Kearns says the overriding message is simply that currency manipulation remains the biggest, most damaging trade problem of the 21st Century.

“It’s galling to see Prime Minister Abe come to the United States, prepared to act as if there aren’t major impediments facing America’s manufacturers. If President Trump wants to carry through on his campaign promise, he must bring Abe up short on any cheery notion that business will continue as usual.”

As Kearns noted in a new op-ed this week, Japan has racked up a $69 billion trade surplus with the United States for the past two years. In 2015, Japan sold America 1.6 million vehicles, for a total of $50 billion in cars and auto parts trade, whereas U.S. car companies sold only 19,000 autos to Japan. Kearns says that Japanese industry continues to benefit from predatory trade practices, including currency manipulation, non-tariff barriers, a border consumption tax, and government allocation of domestic market share.

“Tokyo has intervened in currency markets at least 376 times since 1991 to lower the value of the Yen and boost exports,” said Kearns. “And the market intervention of the Bank of Japan has been so massive that it can only be categorized as a thinly disguised form of currency manipulation. This is egregious and highly detrimental to U.S. exports.”

Kearns says that the ad campaign is focused on the “brick wall” of Japan’s trade barriers. “When you pile currency manipulation on top of tariffs and quotas for everything from shoes to beef exports, you find a rather brazen effort to stop U.S. exports in their tracks. This simply has to stop, and we’re urging the president to lay down the law with Tokyo.”

Kevin L. Kearns is President of The United States Business and Industry Council. Prior to joining USBIC in 1993, he was a Senior Fellow at the Manufacturing Policy Project, a Washington, DC think tank. For 13 years before that he was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer with overseas assignments in Germany, Korea, and Japan, where he witnessed firsthand the operation of highly cartelized, mercantilist economies.
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