Trade issues between the United States and Japan, especially in the automotive sector, have struck a repetitive note for decades: our market is open to them, their market is effectively closed to us. Even though Japan doesn't apply tariffs to cars we export there – whereas we tax Japanese passenger cars 2.5 percent and Japanese light trucks 25 percent – other barriers like Japan's 2,000-unit cap in the Preferential Handling Program and regulatory hurdles have limited the amount of effective trade US companies can conduct there. In 2011 for instance, the US exported $1.5 billion in auto products to Japan but imported $41 billion in auto products from Japan. And it's said that Japan sells 120 cars in the US for every car a US manufacturer sells there.

That's why potential US approval of Japan's request to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is sending automotive criers out in the streets. The TPP is a series of long-running talks to open up trade between the US and 10 other nations (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam). Last month, Japan asked to join the talks, and the TPP membership would need to assent to the request within 90 days of the next TPP meeting, scheduled for Peru in July.

It looks like the US will agree to let Japan in and that has some politicians and labor groups concerned, the fear being that Japan will get an even easier time of it here without truly eliminating hurdles over there. Talks between Japan and the US are said to be at "an advanced stage," with the US trying to get some early agreements in advance in sectors like auto, insurance and agriculture before the July meeting.

The AFL-CIO is wary, just one of the labor groups worried about losing ground just when it's said that American manufacturing is coming back. Ford, not a newcomer to being vocal about trade issues with Japan, is against Japan's inclusion to the TPP talks, as is the American Automotive Policy Council. And certain members of Congress are hesitant to let Japan sit at the table, based on past and current unresolved issues. Nevertheless, it doesn't look like the Obama Administration and a large pro-business lobby will turn away from the possibility of adding the world's third largest economy to the proceedings, the US government having already unofficially welcomed Japan to the TPP talks.


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  • 167 Comments
      Klinkster
      • 1 Year Ago
      Cry me a river you pro-union commie\'s. If we left government to you, this would be North Korea: closed for business. You seem to have forgotten that millions of new jobs have been secured in America over the past 10 years by non-D3 manufacturers who have setup manufacturing plants and distribution networks in the US - all to the benefit of American families and taxpayers. Meanwhile Detroit-3 manufacturers have sent their manufacturing outside of the US to Mexico, Korea, Europe.
        Dr. Claw
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Klinkster
        "Pro-Union Commies" ... there goes another member of the brainwashed, willing to let our oligopolistic corporatist overlords molest the average person in exchange for pocket change and a little bit of outmoded 1950s style jingoism.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Klinkster
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      Motojiro
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think in the news here in Japan, import tax on US cars have been removed already, same for EU cars. But no US cars sell in Japan, because of following reasons. (1) too heavy = hefty weight tax (similar to road tax) (2) CO2 emission is too high = too big burden on tax and insurance (insurance for cars cost 10 times in Japan. In the US readers here may have to pay $100@ year, we pay by "class/ accident history" and normally with good insurance coverage, it costs me $900~700@ year) (3) too fatty = can't take narrow roads in (a) farm roads (b) residential roads...and can't fit in parking space (4) too inefficient = at a moment 40km@liter is the norm for gasoline cars, the size for Prius. Better ones are coming more. Gas price is going up because of cheaper Yen, ouch. (5) low resale price = because US cars easily break down and no support by no dealers (during my life back in South Japan, I have seen one dealer in the entire island). No service, no value, high insurance penalties. (6) Looking is everything = US cars = not in our Japanese value system = error signal in our brain These are why US cars not selling anywhere in Japan. I won't.
        MAX
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Motojiro
        Yeah but Chevy Sonics, Encores, Sparks built in Korea would work just fine. Oh, but Japanese won't buy Korean cars, Hyundai and Kia had to withdraw from this supposedly "open" market. http://bx.businessweek.com/us-auto-sales/hyundai-to-withdraw-from-passenger-car-sales-in-japan/12037965223268256236-6088f5bf25a1e3e44073937cd4c6c8f7/
          Zen1174
          • 1 Year Ago
          @MAX
          If I had a nickel everytime I saw the withdrawal of Hyundai-Kia from the Japanese market as "proof" of it being closed. The Japanese-Korean situation is entirely different than Japanese-US. I can roughly equate it to why you do not and probably will not see Chinese cars on US streets anytime soon.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @MAX
          [blocked]
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @MAX
          I'd take a look at the Sonic RS, partly because it is one of the few subcompacts that is available with 4-wheel disc brakes.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @MAX
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          • 1 Year Ago
          @MAX
          [blocked]
        cantdrive55
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Motojiro
        Couple things to correct... (1) So are BMWs, Audis, mini-vans, Skylines, etc (2) Insurance for me in the US (California) is right around $1100 a year. 0 Accidents, 0 tickets in 16 years of driving. Primary vehicle is a Honda Fit. Secondary (2,500 miles a year) is a 2011 Mustang GT. (3) I'm in Kobe this week. I see plenty of cars just as wide, or wider than US cars. BMWs, Audis, a plethora of mini-vans, Skylines, etc. (4) My Fit, with all 1.5L of 109 HP, which I've seen dozens of here in Japan, gets around 33mpg on average. My 5.0L V8 412HP Mustang gets about 25mpg on average (when not driving like a madman) (5) Can't argue here. (6) I saw a whole group of American Muscle cars driving around Kobe the other day. I've also seen several, fairly badass Harley's here too.
          Zen1174
          • 1 Year Ago
          @cantdrive55
          i'm going to correct a few things of yours. 1, 3, and 6. BMW's, Skylines etc are very niche sellers, not mainstream at all. I would say that most people driving these cars have private garages or at the very least off street parking spaces. A third of cars on the road in japan are kei cars which have a maximum width of 1.48 m (4.9 ft). As for Minivans, the Mazda 5 is considered large there. If you are referring to commercial vans, which are again smaller than US equivalents, this wouldnt be relevant for the average Japanese consumer. 4. About 20% of the cars sold in Japan are hybrids including more than half of the Fits. Also, the largest engine available in the JDM Fit is 1.3 L, so I'd imagine that almost all of the Fits you've seen are getting better fuel efficiency than yours.
          Zen1174
          • 1 Year Ago
          @cantdrive55
          I wanted to correct something that I only caught after I submitted. I meant to say that the standard (and vast majority) engine in the JDM Fit is 1.3 L. The 1.5 is available in the RS model. Also, for comparison the latest Ford Focus is 1.8 m wide. And as you know this is on the smaller side for US cars.
      Alfonso T. Alvarez
      • 1 Year Ago
      Typical comments yet again - HINT: It isn't just about cars, it is about auto parts, agriculture, insurance and many, many other industries that Japan has closed to the US. Free trade is great - when it is free both ways. Currently it is just a one way street with Japan - that is the issue.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Alfonso T. Alvarez
        [blocked]
          Renaurd
          • 1 Year Ago
          You're an idiot!
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          Dr. Claw
          • 1 Year Ago
          I see you accept drinking the corporatist Kool-Aid. Personally I'm for the end of that stupid "chicken tax", esp. since it was done to prevent American automakers getting mauled before they could develop the S10 and Ranger, both extinct in the US today (unfortunately) since everyone buys full-size pickups nowadays.
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          Alfonso: shhh, facts overload aaron's pea-sized brain.
        Renaurd
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Alfonso T. Alvarez
        Whoever gave you a down vote is an idiot, you are 100% correct.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Renaurd
          [blocked]
      Houmpheng Phonsavath
      Why buy American JUNK,when they can buy something more reliable,dependable,fuel efficient,etc.
        Bandit5317
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Houmpheng Phonsavath
        This comment was written by someone who hasn't read a review of or cross-shopped an American car in over ten years.
      • 1 Year Ago
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        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        >thug labor Is that what all unions are to you, thug labor? I hate to break this to you, but Honda, Toyota, Nissan, etc. ALL HAVE UNIONS IN THEIR JAPANESE PLANTS.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          [blocked]
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          I'll semi-grant you that one. There hasn't been any conclusive evidence linking the UAW to organized crime. Before you say Jimmy Hoffa, keep in mind he was Teamsters, NOT UAW. Completely different.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          [blocked]
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        richard
        • 1 Year Ago
        We can always rely on you to bash America and stick up for your Asian friends. The more Japan screws America over, the more some people like you seem to enjoy it. You Japanese supporters are pathetic. If you acted like this in Japan against their country, they would throw you out. But in America, we have no choice but to put up with your anti-American garbage.
        • 1 Year Ago
        [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          Do you have any other sources? One blog (that you may or may not run) isn't enough.
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          Also, kei-cars aren't really relevant, seeing as their top speed is less than 45 mph, hence why they are not sold here.
        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        Again, you know NOTHING.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          [blocked]
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          I only have an article from 1998. You asked for cars that had a following, I gave you evidence. Again, you have an idealized vision of Japan, where it came from I have no idea (likely anime or something of that nature), and I have told you that you are flat out wrong, you ******* p'taq.
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          If they'd give it a chance, I think the Volt would find favor there. The Ford Ka (admittedly not sold here, its a Europe exclusive at this point) might also find favor, seeing as its a subcompact (smaller than the Fiesta). I gave you evidence based on what I know. Again, YOU are the one who is refusing to accept it.
        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        Holy **** you are delusional.
      Diz
      • 1 Year Ago
      Any trade rep who thinks the Japanese are serious about "opening" their markets should be fired. There are so many impediments to open car trade in the Japanese bag of tricks so as to make any formal agreement absolutely worthless.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Diz
        [blocked]
      carguy1701
      • 1 Year Ago
      I doubt this will change anything. The Japanese have always been a bit xenophobic when it comes to cars, somewhat rightfully so (though nobody is making bad cars anymore). There ARE nameplates that have followings there (Corvette, Mustang, Astro vans, old GM B-body cars), but by and large, buying anything other than a Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc. is viewed as a bad thing by the majority over there (but to be fair, cars like the Camry barely move in that market; it is dominated by what we would consider sub-compacts, as well as kei-cars). That said, car culture in Japan as a whole is dying, thanks to a lack of natural resources (they import all their oil), a well-funded and well-maintained public transit system, a lack of space (if memory serves, in terms of total square miles, Japan is only slightly larger than California, and pretty much all real estate is used for something), and a general lack of attachment to the automobile. That isn't to say there aren't enthusiasts over there, but they're even more of a minority there than they are here.
        miles
        • 1 Year Ago
        @carguy1701
        That's a reasonable point of view, your downvotes are confusing. Maybe aaronPMS has many user ID's?
          • 1 Year Ago
          @miles
          [blocked]
      jay.ai
      • 1 Year Ago
      I agree that Japan is not being fair with the foreign car manufactures, however, US makers can also try harder. 1. Sell your cars cheaper (do not add 10k on top of the US price to create a brand image and compete against BMWs. Your competitor is Toyota. ) 2. Why not make cars with driver seat on right? That's how we drive here and most BMWs and VWs etc. have the drivers seats on right. 3. Why not try a little bit more to enter the market (e.g. install navs compatible with Japanese system) Good example is the new ATS. It is a beautiful car that kicks all Toyota @ss but its 45k USD start (was over 50k before yen dropped last month) with left hand steering wheels. Further, CUE system does not come with a nav and you have to add a stupid PND on dash board. See the link :) http://www.cadillac.co.jp/lineup/ats/price.html In any case, lower trade barrier is better for us consumers regardless of your nationality.
        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jay.ai
        Does Japan use a different electronic codec/whatever for their nav systems?
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          [blocked]
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          I thought the ATS WAS available in RHD, but couldn't check the GM VIN decoder at the time I commented because my internet was being wonky. Having since checked it, I discovered I was wrong, that the ATS was NOT available in RHD (though the CTS is), which is kind of a surprise. I asked about the codec because Japan uses a different electronics code for certain things (for example, DVDs sold there are marked as Region 2,m whereas a DVD sold in North America is marked as Region 1, and you can't play one in a player designed for the other). THAT is why asked about the codec.
      AngeloD
      • 1 Year Ago
      Good. We'll finally get the same Toyota Hilux PU the rest of the world gets. There would be no reason to continue US production of the Tacoma if the Chicken tax goes kaput.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @AngeloD
        Yeah. It kind of sucks that the Taliban could get a nicer version of the Hilux truck than we could.
      MAX
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hyundai and Kia had to withdraw from Japan's supposedly open market. http://www.autoevolution.com/news/hyundai-withdrawals-from-japan-to-keep-commercial-fleet-13929.html
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MAX
        [blocked]
          MAX
          • 1 Year Ago
          The real reason the Japanese won't buy Korean products isn't lack of quality or design, it's racism and that's why they don't buy American cars either. They'll buy a few cars from their ex-Nazi allies but other gaijin not so much. American hybrids/electrics like C-max, Volt, ELR and Fusion should find a market there. What about small Korean and a Chinese cars built by Ford and GM?
          • 1 Year Ago
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          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          steve
          • 1 Year Ago
          I have a Japanese friend (citizen of Japan) and she has told me the the Japanese by Japanese cars out of national pride and to help the economy.
          • 1 Year Ago
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          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          Aaron (if that even is your name), just stop.
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          Also, the JDM Accord is still being sold there, you are wrong on that count as well.
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          Okay, I'll admit to being wrong about the Accord (last time I had checked it was still for sale there). The fact that it isn't says a lot about how small the market is. Either way, you're still uninformed about Japanese buying habits.
        Mike
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MAX
        “If you're not a Gucci or a BMW, there are very few who prosper there,” Gadacz said. “Mass-market players have it very tough.” LOL.
        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MAX
        That was partly due to anti-Korean sentiment. The Japanese and Koreans aren't exactly friends, thanks to what happened in WWII.
      Dr. Claw
      • 1 Year Ago
      Did I step through a time warp to the 1990s? There are good number of reasons to oppose the TPP (namely all the concessions given to copyright maximalists), but all this anti-Japan sentiment is seriously outdated. The chicken tax needs to die, as it's one of many ways that the government gives handouts to a protected class to extend the life of an outdated business model (the anti-"grey market" law needs to go away too, for this reason). All automakers should be able to build competitive "small" trucks at this point, so the "protection" there is just some BS (it always was, but I digress). Anyone who calls anything even slightly complimentary to organized labor "Communist" needs to get in a time machine and head back to the 1950s ASAP. Or drive off a cliff. Whichever is more expedient.
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