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US Official Urges Japan on Economy

August 19, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Japan needs to be more aggressive in stimulating consumer-led economic growth and helping lead Asia out of its financial crisis, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley said Wednesday.

He urged authorities in Tokyo to speed up the opening of Japanese markets to foreign investment and the restructuring of a banking system saddled with billions of dollars in bad loans.

Foley said Japan’s new prime minister, Keizo Obuchi, in office less than a month, is moving ``as quickly as the Japanese legislative process permits.″

Returning to Capitol Hill, where he spent 30 years as a legislator including five as House speaker, Foley said in a speech to the Economic Strategy Institute that the Diet, Japan’s parliament, is expected to approve tax cuts and spending packages worth billions of dollars.

The Clinton administration, Foley said, ``is constantly urging the Japanese government at the highest level to move expeditiously to meet its commitment to restructure its economy. There is no lack of urgency″ on the U.S. side.

Despite its prolonged recession, he said, Japan ``has retained a strong economic machine, and we would like to see it get stronger″ so it can lead other Asian countries out of the financial crises that have hit them in the last year.

Foley said more foreign investment in Japan would help create jobs and reduce a growing unemployment rate. As for the banking crisis, Foley decried critics of Japanese government moves to allow banks and financial institutions to be owned by foreigners.

Japan’s growing trade deficit with the United States is worrisome, Foley said, and he pointed out the imbalance stems not only from increased Japanese exports but also from Japan buying less from the United States.

Foley said the administration is continuing to press Japan for removal of trade barriers in such areas as auto parts, insurance and photographic film.

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