TOKYO – Back in the 1980s and '90s, when Japanese companies seemed poised to conquer the world, people here liked to say that the U.S. may have won the shooting war, but Japan won the economic one. These days, this island nation is singing a slightly different tune.
In a petition to the U.S. government about America's newly adopted electric vehicle tax credits, Tokyo traded on its longstanding loyalty, since losing World War II, as America's top ally in Asia.
The Japanese government, which sent the appeal Friday to the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, said it had "serious concerns" about the EV tax credits because the incentive scheme puts Japanese carmakers and battery makers at a disadvantage.
"They in fact preclude Japanese businesses from enjoying the benefit," the dispatch said.
Tokyo not-so-subtly urged Washington to give Japanese companies special consideration — not because of Japan's trade relations — but because of country's standing as a "like-minded" ally. In fact, Japan used a form of the word "ally" no fewer than 11 times in the three-page communique.
Typical of the language: "Taking into consideration the objective to work with allies and like-minded partners to establish resilient supply chains, allies including Japan should be accorded treatment no less favorable than countries in the North America region."
The recently signed Inflation Reduction Act is designed to incentivize domestic EV production and reduce reliance on foreign supply chains. It gives special allowance to battery production and material sourcing done in North America or countries with which the U.S. has a free-trade accord.
Japan, which doesn't have a free-trade agreement with the U.S., has undoubtedly been a steadfast friend in the Pacific for more than a half-century. The archipelago is studded with U.S. military bases and hosts about 50,000 American soldiers, sailors and flyers.