Public Papers - 1992
Remarks at the Opening of Toys-R-Us in Kashihara, Japan
Thank you all very, very much, all of you. And may I first thank Governor Kakimoto and Mayor Miura for their gracious hospitality and say to all of you that it really is, for Barbara and me, a deep honor to visit this ancient and venerable city of Kashihara right here in Japan. And may I thank Minister Watanabe for being here. His ministry did so much to change the great retail store law, and I am personally very grateful to him for taking the time to be with us today.
And Mr. Charles Lazarus, thank you, sir, for your introduction. It's a pleasure being at your side and sharing your joy in the successful opening of Toys-R-Us. When our grandchildren heard about this trip to the Far East, they figured the highlight would be today, stopping at Toys-R-Us. And I'll just have to tell them I couldn't buy them anything because Barbara has cut my kozukai, my allowance, that is. [Laughter]
What we see here today is success for Japanese consumers as well as for ourselves in the effort to eliminate a major barrier in the Japanese distribution system. For years, American retailers have sought to compete in the Japanese market. And after all, Japan has the second largest economy in the world, and its consumers are increasingly demanding wider choices for themselves and their families, lower prices, and certainly uncompromising quality.
But American companies before weren't making any headway because the regulations, particularly the large retail store law, made opening new foreign retail stores virtually impossible. From the beginning of our administration we've had a key trade policy objective, and that was to break down the barriers to the sales of U.S. goods and services.
And in 1990, we launched the Structural Impediments Initiative, or what we call SII, those talks to remove the underlying economic barriers to trade and balance of payment adjustment and to promote open markets. SII has indeed enabled us to take aim at the rules that prevent our companies from competing in Japanese markets.
And when Japan changed its large store law, it lowered a key barrier to open trade. And Japanese consumers, your buyers here in this country, and our workers stand to reap the benefits. Japanese consumers will get stores with wider selections, more competitive prices, and quality goods from around the world. And U.S. companies will be able to operate businesses and sell their products in this huge and promising market.
And I think we're all here today because Toys-R-Us was ready to take up the challenge of SII, and it literally lived up to the old Japanese saying, ``Three years on top of a stone.'' We have much to learn from the 3-year battle that Toys-R-Us waged to pry open the billion Japanese toy market. After all, this is the first time that a large U.S. discount store has opened here, and it's blazed a trail. And now all kinds of companies can come on in, from toy stores to high-tech outlets.
And I hope that Toys-R-Us is but the first in a long line of American retailers to locate in this great country. Greater access is an exciting idea, and it will help create more jobs in America. And the opening of the Japanese retail market gives our manufacturers, particularly the small manufacturers, a conduit into markets they otherwise couldn't have touched and brings the Japanese consumer a wide choice of world-class goods.
The relationship between the United States and Japan is one of the world's most vital economic relationships. Our two nations produce over 40 percent, 40 percent of the world's gross national product, and therefore, our actions, taken separately or together, affect many countries.
We've worked together in close cooperation, for instance, at the economic summit, in the G - 7 framework, and in international financial institutions to promote global growth and shared prosperity, Japan and the U.S. working for those common goals.
But we still face many challenges. And each partner must realize that it benefits from free trade and open markets. Our economic relationship is not a zero-sum game for either side. And though we're pleased at the success so far, we're not satisfied with just reaching these piecemeal trade agreements. In the cause of free and open trade, we want agreements that produce permanent improvement in access and in U.S. sales to Japanese markets and permanent improvement in the lives of Japanese consumers.
And what makes me so happy here today is that we see here the beginning of a dynamic new economic relationship, one of greater balance. There is much that we can do for the world based on a forward-looking global partnership between two great nations, two powerful economies, and two resourceful, innovative peoples. And together we will go far.
Just two last points. I will do my level-best as President of the United States to preserve and strengthen the important relationship between Japan and my great country. It has a lot to do with world peace. It has a lot to do with world economic stability. It has a lot to do with two great economic and democratic countries working together, setting an example for other countries around the world. So, I want to say to the Minister and to the Prime Minister, I will do my part to keep this relationship on track.
And lastly, and this is the end, you'll be happy to know, I just want to thank all of the people in this wonderful city who have given Barbara Bush, over here, and me such a warm welcome. When we got off that helicopter here and came by those wonderfully warm, smiling faces, extending to us a warm, Japanese welcome, we felt very, very grateful and very emotional. And that said an awful lot about the friendship between Japan and the United States of America.
Thank you. And may God bless each and every one of you.
Note: The President spoke at 4:10 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Yoshiya Kakimoto, Governor of Nara; Taro Miura, Mayor of Kashihara; Michio Watanabe, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Charles Lazarus, chairman and chief executive officer of Toys-R-Us. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.