Proposed changes in U.S.-Japanese trade relations will not significantly affect the area economy, and recent statements made by President Bush will not enhance Lawrence's sister city arrangement with Hiratsuka, Japan, local officials said.
"I don't think one conducts diplomacy in the manner the president has chosen to do," said Ted Kuwana, president of the Friends of Hiratsuka organization. "It's not very helpful."
Bush, who is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Tuesday with a group of business leaders, said Japanese trade barriers are furthering economic problems in the United States.
Kuwana said the president's remarks may have been made more for domestic political reasons than for international trade purposes.
"There may be some legitimate concerns, but you go into that during negotiations . . . not through these statements," he said.
KUWANA SAID anti-Japanese remarks made by U.S. politicians would not help Lawrence's sister city relationship because they can encourage anti-Japanese sentiment among the American public. The sister cities program is designed to strengthen cultural and economic ties.
Bush, who has been overseas since Dec. 30, has said that Japan should open its markets to American auto parts and other products to ease the $41 billion U.S. trade deficit with Japan.
Congress also has threatened legislation to restrict Japanese imports unless the trade imbalance is adjusted.
Kuwana said the sister cities program would not be directly affected by either of those measures because Lawrence and Hiratsuka are not exchanging large amounts of industrial or agricultural products.
"I don't see any direct impact," he said.
Gary Toebben, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, also said Lawrence would not be significantly affected by the proposed changes.
"The president's trip to Japan means the same thing to Lawrence as it does to the rest of the United States," Toebben said.
"I think there will be some changes made by the Japanese government and the Japanese companies, but those changes will probably not be as great as we would like," he said.
Toebben said public opinion, particularly American public opinion, is watched carefully in Japan and could play a role in Japanese initiatives.
HE SAID any proposed changes whether generated by Japan or the U.S. Congress would not immediately affect Lawrence because the city is not industry-based.
However, he said improved trade relations could mean a better economy in Lawrence if the national economy improves.
Jim Schwartzburg, president of Packer Plastics, 2330 Packer Rd., said President Bush should "go ahead and be tough."
"But you have to be right," he said. "You can't have protectionism, so I don't see a problem in asking" Japan to lower its trade barriers.
However, Schwartzburg, whose company would not be affected by the proposed changes, said the trade deficit should have been addressed a long time ago.
"I think when the horse is out of the barn it's a little late," he said. "It's a rough road now."
Local auto dealers said they wouldn't be affected if Japan opens up its markets to American auto parts or automobiles.
But they said Congressional legislation restricting imports of Japanese cars into the United States could affect local car buyers, depending on the specifics of the legislation and when it went into effect.
"I THINK anybody who sells imported cars, it could adversly affect them," said Dale Willey, owner of Dale Willey Pontiac-Cadillac Inc., 2840 Iowa.
Local auto dealers said 45 to 50 percent of all cars sold in Lawrence are Japanese, which they said is typical for a college town.
However, some dealers pointed out that many models of Japanese cars are manufactured in the United States.
"We've become so much of an international society that it's hard to say what domestic means now," said John Ellena, general manager of John Ellena Honda, 2957 Four Wheel Dr.