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Australia Plays Down Japan Woes

April 5, 1998

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ Australia’s industry minister said Sunday the Japanese economy is ``pretty flat,″ but he doubted his country’s largest trading partner is heading for an economic collapse that could trigger a global recession.

``If they accept the advice they’ve been getting from America and the support they will get from America, there’s no reason to assume the negative growth ... won’t improve,″ John Moore told Channel 9 TV.

The chairman of Sony Corp., the electronics giant, said last week that Japan’s economy was on the brink of collapse.

Norio Ohga harshly criticized Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, accusing him of mismanaging the economy, which many analysts believe is nearing a recession, and comparing him to President Herbert Hoover on the eve of America’s depression in 1929.

Moore shrugged off suggestions Australia’s manufacturing sector was already feeling the pinch, with nearly all manufacturing export sectors reporting falling exports over the past three months and about 34,000 job losses in six months.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley accused the government of complacency and cautioned it against being too slow to respond.

``There may be very little that we can do about anything that may be happening in Japan but anything that happens in Japan _ they sneeze, we catch a cold,″ Beazley said.

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