‘Patience’ Key to Coping wth Tariffs

By BRIAN COVERT
STAFF WRITER

OSAKA — An official with the world’s largest consumer electronics maker says increasing productivity within companies may be one way to cope with the 100-percent tariffs levied on Japanese electronics by the U.S.

“We’ll do our best, but 100-percent tariffs are not easy to cope with for any company,” Akira Harada, executive vice president of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., with international headquarters here, said in an interview with The Japan Times.

Harada said that Japanese companies must “be patient and wait” in dealing with the U.S. trade retaliation.

Matsushita manufactures such product brand names as National, Panasonic, Quasar and Technics. Through its own trading company, Matsushita also imports raw materials and various products to the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia.

According to the company’s 1986 annual report, the strong yen helped its group imports exceed the ¥120 billion mark. But at the same time, the yen also contributed to Matsushita’s 34-percent decline in net income over 1985.

Harada said most Japanese people seem to hold neutral views about the continuing trade conflicts between America and Japan.

“We still think the majority of Japanese people recognize that we need the U.S. as a reliable partner,” he said.

Government officials from both countries continue to meet and discuss the trade issue, with President Ronald Reagan indicating this week that the tariffs may be resolved soon.

“If they’re permanent, they’re really a problem,” Harada said.

He said the trade problems can be resolved through negotiations rather than emotional retaliations. “If we are careful and take good measures,” Harada said, the conflicts may diminish. “But if we make a mistake, there still exists some danger.”

Resolving the Japan-U.S. trade conflict in the years ahead must include massive restructuring in the economies of both countries, he said.

Harada said that much of the trade issue appears to be politically motivated in the United States.