CANADA

Wooing Asian markets

PAUL GESSELL May 19 1986
CANADA

Wooing Asian markets

PAUL GESSELL May 19 1986

Wooing Asian markets

The honored visitor from Canada came armed with one Japanese word and, at that, he stumbled over the pronunciation before his audience in Tokyo’s parliament understood him. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told a meeting of the Japanese Diet last week that his mission in Asia was one of nemawashi—which means “cultivating the root.” And if Canada’s root concerns were not nourished by Mulroney’s postsummit, nine-day tour through Japan, China and South Korea, it was not for want of effort. Mulroney met with Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, had a IV2hour talk with Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, a power breakfast with Japanese businessmen and, at week’s end, in China, spoke with the country’s leadership. And his mission—if not all his messages—received a welcome that was decidedly warm. In Tokyo he travelled in a 16-car cavalcade and received a gift of 10 sacred Japanese deer. The host politicians—even Communist parliamentarians who boycotted an earlier appearance by Ronald Reagan—gave him standing ovations. And in China he was greeted by a military marching band and 200 schoolgirls waving tambourines and streamers.

But however splendid the receptions, Mulroney’s appeals for an improved trade climate won few firm rewards. Mulroney told his Japanese hosts he would like Japan to buy more finished goods, invest more heavily in Canada and improve a trade balance that tips

in Japan’s favor by $400 million a year. But Nakasone offered little that was concrete beyond a decision, as reported by a Canadian official, to relax Japanese building codes to allow more imports of Canadian lumber—Canada’s third-largest export to Japan. Even that concession was thrown into question when Tokyo newspapers said Nakasone had promised to review—but not amend—the code.

Mulroney’s visit to China, like the last leg of the Asian trip this week in South Korea (page 23), was in part designed to enhance trade. In Peking, where Premier Zhao Ziyang greeted him in the Gate of Heavenly Peace Square, Mulroney announced a $350million line of interest-free financing for Chinese purchases of Canadian goods. Mulroney asked Zhao to continue buying Canada’s wheat—which accounted for one-third of the $1.3 billion in 1985 exports to China—despite more attractively priced European and American grain. Officials accompanying Mulroney said Zhao’s response was “very encouraging.” But a Canadian statement delivered to Chinese authorities on the imprisonment of a dozen Chinese priests was less welcome. Said one Canadian official: “We were given what I would describe as the party line—the interpretation of human rights in Canadian eyes is not human rights in Chinese eyes.”

PAUL GESSELL in Peking