For a long time, Japan’s automakers had pressured their government to enter free trade talks with Europe and the U.S. The Japanese government had dragged its heels, putting the interest of ageing farmers first. With a trade agreement, Japan would be a ripe market for American rice farmers and cattle breeders, and I would finally be able to enjoy a good steak in Japan without risking a heart attack. Caused by the price, not by the cholesterol.
After the Japanese car industry did flee the strong yen and the country, its government reluctantly entered negotiations. Not surprisingly, the American car industry is opposed.
When Japan announced its intentions to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, U.S. car companies represented by the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC) expressed “adamant opposition,” Inside U.S. Trade reported. The AAPC represents Ford, Chrysler, and GM. Last November, AAPC President Matt Blunt demanded that Japan should not be allowed to join the TPP negotiations until U.S. and other foreign cars have achieved a higher market share in Japan. Which is a crafty way of saying “never.”
Now, the AAPC found another straw man argument. Japan should give up its beloved kei cars. Or rather the preferential tax treatment of the pint sized cars.
“Japan’s ‘Kei’ super-mini car segment has consistently represented over 30 percent of the auto market, but no longer has a clear policy rationale to be provided preferential treatment,” the AAPC wrote in an opinion paper submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative. Imagine the uproar it would cause if a foreign trade organization would dare to doubt the policy rationale behind preferential treatment of the American pick-up. There is nothing that precludes the importation of foreign kei cars to Japan. If there would be foreign kei cars.
Of course it would be more honest to say: “Look, 2.5 percent import duty on foreign cars brought to the U.S. is low enough, who wants zero like in Japan. We want to keep that tariff. We especially want to keep the 25 percent chicken tax on trucks that worked so well. Exports to Japan? Are you kidding me?” That would be honest, but honesty does not get you far in politics.
Nobody knows that better than the former governor of Missouri Blunt, who did not run for re-election after one term, rocked by scandals. He chose a career in lobbying, which got him the job as AAPC president last year. Blunt riles against non-tariff barriers that unfairly prevent the success of American cars in Japan, but Blunt is hard pressed to name the barriers when asked what they are.
In an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, Blunt said that the AAPC will not develop an exact list of barriers its members face in Japan. Blunt said that would be a “classic whack-a-mole” approach under which the United States would seek to address one barrier only to have another one pop up.
Come on, Matt Blunt. Release the documents.
Meanwhile, the AAPC “is fully supportive of the ambition of a 21st century TPP agreement with Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.” No wonder, they don’t have much of a car industry.
In the unlikely case that Japan should succeed with that TPP business in an election year, Blunt could always declare an emergency and shoot them.