Wide-ranging trade accord with Japan expected to boost dollar

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The Independent Online
A dramatic easing of tensions between Japan and the United States following the conclusion of a wide-ranging trade deal at the weekend is expected to boost the dollar when the currency markets open today.

In the longer term, agreement should also open the door to European as well as US firms seeking to establish a Japanese presence in such traditionally closed areas as insurance and telecommunications.

The deal, struck late on Saturday after a 20-hour negotiating marathon in Washington, calls on Japan to make regulatory changes to open markets in public procurement of telecoms and medical equipment, for the sale of flat glass, and in the insurance sector.

British insurance companies are expected to be important beneficiaries from the deal in this key area.

Among those welcoming the package was Maurice Greenberg, chairman of the American International Group, one of the largest insurance companies in the world. It has been operating in Japan since 1946 but has been frustrated in efforts to make headway.

The agreement, Mr Greenberg said, 'makes for a more level playing field because it now allows us more freedom to introduce products. The detail of this agreement leaves little room for ambiguity'.

No progress was made, however, on imports into Japan of foreign cars and car parts.

The Japanese delegation, led by the Foreign Minister, Yohei Kono, and Trade Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, said the changes would improve market access for all foreign firms in the affected sectors.

The agreement brought an end to 15 months of often bitter talks, with the Japanese negotiating under the threat of immediate US sanctions and a possible trade war. The deadline for a settlement had been set by the US for midnight on Friday.

Fears of retaliation and counter- retaliation kept currency markets nervous last week. Rumours of a possible agreement on Friday, however, saw a brief rally of the dollar against the yen. With the deal now done, analysts expect a strengthening of the dollar today.

Enthusiasm in the US for the package was dampened by the failure to reach agreement on more open trade in the car industry. Cars and vehicle components account for two-thirds of the US's trade deficit with Japan.