New trade strategy needed

President Bush’s trip to Japan wasn’t as successful as he would like everyone to think. However, Bush’s problem isn’t so much with Japan but with the Big Three auto makers he took along for company.

It was far too optimistic for Bush to think Japan would agree to cutting their exports to the United States while at the same time increasing their purchase of American cars. The numbers the president put on the table were pretty extreme.

If Bush and Co. really want to narrow the trade imbalance – a tall order for anyone – they need to improve their marketing strategies.

American auto makers design their cars to drive on the right side of the road, but the Japanese drive on the left side. Why should anyone living in Japan buy a car the steers on the wrong side? Considering this, it’s a surprise the Big Three sell as many cars as they do in Japan.

They should take a hint from Japanese auto firms. It wasn’t hard for them to adopt to our manner of driving, and it shouldn’t be hard for Detroit to make a switch.

Secondly, news reports during the trip revealed that the heads of the Big Three rake in millions of bucks while their Japanese counterparts make around $300,000 a year. It might be difficult for bosses like Lee Iococca and GM’s Robert Stempel to swallow the notion of a pay cut, but some of that money could be better used for research.

The White House is calling Bush’s trade mission an ecomonic victory equivalent to Desert Storm. Most likely, it’s the political equivalent of a foreign affairs president trying to win an election with 11th-hour domestic concern.