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Japan dismisses US concerns on scrappage plan

Japanese consumers are given cash to replace old cars with those meeting specified fuel economy standards. (AFP)

By Reuters

A Japanese trade official dismissed US concerns about the country's car scrappage incentive scheme yesterday, saying the programme does not discriminate against imported cars.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada when they met on Tuesday that concerns are rising in the US Congress about Japan's incentive scheme, Japanese media reported.

Under the scheme which has helped increase demand in Japan's car market, the world's third-largest, consumers get cash to replace old cars with those meeting specified fuel economy standards.

"The current Japanese programme does not discriminate between domestic and international [products], and we do not think there are any problems in regards to the World Trade Organisation," said a Japanese trade ministry official who declined to be named.

Consumers can apply for the incentives with any car as long as they meet certain environmental standards, he said, adding that some cars made by European firms such as Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen met such conditions.

"We will seek the understanding of the United States by listening closely to its views and explaining ours well," he said.

Last week, US Congresswoman Betty Sutton introduced a resolution calling for the US Trade Representative to start talks with Tokyo and urged Washington to bring a WTO case against Japan if it does not open up its programme to American cars.

US automakers Ford Motor Co, General Motors Corp and Chrysler complained to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk in December that Japan's fleet renewal programme effectively barred US firms from participating. The Japanese scheme, under which the government pays up to ¥250,000 (Dh10,000) in cash to people replacing vehicles more than 13 years old, started last April. It is scheduled to end in March but is likely to be extended by six months.


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