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A Japanese lawmaker has placed the blame for the U.S.-Japan trade imbalance

on what he described as lazy and poorly qualified American workers.

"American workers don't work hard enough. They don't work but demand high

pay," Japanese newspapers quoted Yoshio Sakurauchi, speaker of the House of

Representatives, as saying.

Sakurauchi's statements evoked strong opinion in the United States.

"The man is full of baloney. That's a gross exaggeration of what goes on in

America," said Ronald Shaw, president of Pilot Pen Corp. of America, a U.S.

subsidiary of a Japanese company that makes pens in Trumbull, Conn.

"To say we are a society of fat and lazy people, I can't subscribe to that,"

Shaw said.

The Yomiuri newspaper quoted Sakurauchi, 79, as describing the United States

as "Japan's subcontractor" and saying, "If America doesn't watch out, it is

going to be judged as finished by the world."

Sakurauchi's comments prompted a rebuke from Owen Bieber, president of the

United Auto Workers.

"I hope those who complain so loudly about so-called Japan bashers will be

vigorous in denouncing these bigoted remarks for the U.S. bashing that they

represent," Bieber said.

And even Americans who make Japanese cars in the U.S. are upset by the

comment.

Japan's Honda says the workers at its U.S. factories match the best in the

world. It also says the quality of the cars the American workers turn out

equals that of Japanese-made Hondas.

"If we weren't competing on productivity we wouldn't be able to compete on

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price," said Roger Lambert, spokesman for Honda of America Manufacturing Inc.

in Marysville, Ohio.

Sakurauchi, who has been elected 16 times to parliament, wields considerable

influence in the government because of his seniority. But he is less active in

day-to-day maneuvering in parliament.

Criticizing Bush's Jan. 7-10 visit as merely aimed at selling cars,

Sakurauchi was quoted as saying, "The deterioration in the quality of U.S.

workers is at the heart" of Japan's $41 billion trade surplus with the United

States.

Despite the criticism of Sakurauchi's remarks, there is little disagreement

among experts that the American educational system is troubled and that many

workers lack needed skills.

Jeffrey Arpan, professor of international business at the University of

South Carolina, said the difference between Japan and the United States lies

less with their workers than their societies.

"The Japanese are more future oriented, much more willing to sacrifice today

for tomorrow," he said, while the United States and its industrial managers are

less willing to plan for the long term.

A survey last year of 4,000 companies by the National Association of

Manufacturers found that a third of the companies regularly reject applicants

because they cannot read or write adequately, and one-fourth reject them

because of inabilities with communications and basic mathematics.

Other Japanese politicians have made disparaging remarks about Americans in

the past, the most notable in 1986 when Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said

Americans have lower intelligence than Japanese.

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