U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, co-Chair of the Bipartisan Senate Manufacturing Caucus, today issued the following statement regarding Japan's declaration of its intent to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Sen. Stabenow called on President Obama to bar Japan from participating in the trade alliance until the country ends anti-competitive trade practices that hurt American businesses and workers, especially its trade barriers for American automobiles. Stabenow said:
"The United States should not allow Japan to lock in an uncompetitive advantage over American companies and workers. Opening U.S. markets to more Japanese products while Japan keeps its market closed to American automakers simply does not make sense. Japan needs to take concrete, unequivocal actions to open its automobile market before it is allowed to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership."
Because Japan has erected anticompetitive trade barriers, Japan exports over 120 automobiles to the U.S. for every American vehicle Japan allows into its market. Japan's barriers to trade include currency manipulation, onerous vehicle certification for imported cars that Japanese-made cars don't have to undergo, zoning laws that make it difficult to establish new dealerships if they carry foreign-made cars, and government incentives for the purchase of Japanese-made cars. Because of these barriers, the United States' trade deficit with Japan is its second-largest trade deficit with a foreign country, and the imbalance in auto markets accounts for 70 percent of that trade deficit.
Senator Stabenow has long opposed further opening U.S. markets to Japan as long as the country continued to block American automobiles from its market. In a letter to the president in 2011, Sen. Stabenow said Japan should not be allowed to join Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement negotiations unless Japan demonstrates a sustained commitment to following international trade rules.
Sen. Stabenow reiterated these concerns in a letter sent to the President with other members of Congress this week. The members pointed to burdensome regulations and non-tariff barriers, like currency manipulation, that restrict U.S. automobiles from the Japanese market. These barriers have made Japan the most closed automobile market in the developed world, directly hurting U.S. automakers in the process.