Former Consul General Terms U.S. Tariffs ‘Bad Decision’
By BRIAN COVERT
OSAKA — According to former U.S. consul general William Sherman, retaliatory U.S. trade tariffs on Japanese electronic products was a bad move that only heightened bilateral trade tensions.
“I think it was a very bad decision,” Sherman, who served as consul general for Osaka-Kobe from 1968-70, said here Wednesday in an interview with the Japan Times. “I think it was hastily conceived and it didn’t do anybody any good.”
Sherman said that American governmental agencies such as the Department of Commerce seemed inclined “to demonstrate their ability to do something. Just the act of retaliation was important to them, and they certainly had overwhelming support from Congress.”
He said that Congress appeared to be politically motivated, with the 1988 presidential election on the horizon, in making its demands for retaliatory action against Japan’s alleged “dumping” of semiconductor goods.
“Maybe it was done for domestic political reasons as much as it was done for international reasons,” Sherman said.
“It’s always been too easy to bring Japan bashing to the surface,” he added. “The ‘Pearl Harbor syndrome’ can be unleashed rapidly in our society, and that’s probably understandable too.”
The 65-year-old Sherman, now a diplomat in residence at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, is visiting the Kansai area before leaving today for Nagoya and later Tokyo.
He said he was “delighted” with president Ronald Reagan’s recent decision to lift part of the original trade tariffs.
“What pleases me is that the sanctions did not stay in effect very long,” he said.
The key to working out trade problems between the two nations lies in mutual trust and fair play, according to Sherman.
“We both have to believe that we’re being perfectly honest and that nobody is trying to put something over on his partner,” he said.
“The perception of fairness is probably the most important thing that has to occur in both countries.”
On other matters, Sherman said he anticipates Osaka and the Kansai area playing a vital role in Japan’s future economic development.
“I think there’s very certainly a role for another major economic power center in Japan,” he said. “It’s not that small that everything has to be concentrated in Tokyo.
“All of this requires somebody with vision, somebody who looks ahead and sees the future,” said Sherman. “These people could come from the Kansai just as well as they could from Tokyo.”