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Opinion: Trade agreement and Japan's anti-import policies

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

As a small-business man, I am a firm believer in free and fair bilateral trade between our nation and other nations around the world. Opening new markets for American goods enhances our prosperity, and access to goods from other nations is an equally good thing. This is why I am hopeful that Congress will pass three new trade agreements this fall.

There is currently another agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, on the horizon. This includes eight countries in the Asia-Pacific region and is scheduled for an eighth round of talks later this month. It will foster employment and business opportunity at home and abroad.

American markets are open to goods from Japanese firms, which we welcome. Belatedly, Japan -- a nation with a history of trade protectionism -- announced it would like to join the agreement right as the final negotiations have been scheduled. Unfortunately, to join at the end of the process without going through the same steps as the other prospective members just is not feasible, especially for a nation with Japan's mixed track record on trade.

You need look no further than the automotive industry to see that Japan has not made enough effort to foster free and fair bilateral trade with the United States in recent years. Seventy percent of our $60 billion trade deficit last year was accounted for by the automotive industry. American cars are competitive in almost every nation around the world, except in Japan, where U.S. automobile companies sold less than 1 percent of the six million cars sold. Why? Japan is hostile to imports, using protectionist policies to protect domestic companies.

To perform favorably for America's job holders, this agreement must be bilateral and fair. We enjoy a long, stable, deep and committed friendship with our ally, Japan, which must continue for our, and their, prosperity and security. Before Japan joins, I would ask our members of Congress to make sure Japan's anti-import policies are addressed.

T. Robin Cole, III is a small-business man and Jackson resident.

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