In 30 years of covering U.S.-Japan trade, I have seen little change in Americans' thinking about access to Japan's auto market. A news analysis I wrote for the Dec. 21 issue, "U.S. shut out of Japan's clunker plan," drew the usual reactions.
But the standard responses to Japan's closed market haven't produced squat. I suggest a new response.
First, let's drop the two responses that Americans keep trying. They are:
1. Buy American: I'm not saying it's a bad or good idea, but as a strategy, promoting "Buy American" has been as successful as promoting Esperanto.
2. Demand Japan open its market: Why bother? Japan's shrinking auto market offers low returns for high costs. The Detroit 3 should continue to devote minimal dollars to selling in Japan and instead put their money into the Chinese and Indian markets, where margins and long-term growth prospects are better.
The U.S. government's goal in global auto trade is not to sell more cars in Japan. The goal is to strengthen the auto industry that operates on U.S. soil, paying wages and taxes in America.