Japan Belt-Tightening Hurts U.S.

Japanese fish auctions open before dawn and are busy. But the big fish story these days is about the one that got away - American profits. CBS Correspondent Barry Petersen reports.

Top quality American blue-fin tuna once got top prices at the auction, as much as $20,000 a fish. Now it's more like $3,000. The Japanese are paying less and American fishermen are getting less because the demand for high quality tuna has slumped in Japan's recession.

"These high-grade seafood products are what you call luxury items and when the economy is in recession people are going to have less money to spend," says importer Charles Wu.

Housing is hardly a luxury item. Still, housing starts have slipped 20 months in a row in Japan, and so has the need for those American two-by-fours.

No wonder American companies are closing lumber mills and laying off workers. Akira Taniguchi, who runs what was the world's largest timber port, says lumber imports are down by half compared to last year.


Chrysler hoped to crack Japan's protectionist armor with its Neon model. The company plan included getting Japanese dealers to sell American, a tough sell in a recession.

"Their existing businesses are suffering, so they are not ready to make another investment," says Robert Bowen, president of sales for Chrysler Japan.

To be successful in Japan, say American businessmen, you must keep your eye on the ball. American golf balls used to be par for the course in that golf crazy country. These days, with sales off more then 40 percent, they are a sign of America's hard times there.

America once seemed immune to economic troubles in far-away Japan. but in this new global economy, each swing of Japan's fortunes downward now means more losers on main street and Wall Street in the USA.


Reported By Barry Petersen
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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