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Bush, Mori Brainstorm Methods To Bolster Weakening Economies

By Jim Mann

President Bush met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Monday, but the leaders did not come up with any specific measures to revive growth in the world’s two largest economies.

Senior U.S. officials said Bush advised Mori that Japan should not try to stimulate its economy by increasing exports -- an approach that might harm American industries, such as automobiles, that compete with Japanese companies.

Instead, White House aides said, the president emphasized that Japan should deal with its long-standing domestic economic problems, particularly corporate debt and nonperforming loans.

Bush and Mori held their first meeting at a critical juncture for the weakening economies of both nations. In recent weeks, U.S. stock markets have plunged; Japan appears to be heading into recession once again.

But there was no indication that the economic discussions between Bush and Mori went beyond generalities, or that they had resulted in any new commitments by either government.

Asked whether Mori had agreed that Japan should not try to export its way out of its economic doldrums, a senior Japanese official who asked not to be named replied that there had been no direct response from the prime minister.

The impact of the summit was undercut by Mori’s political weakness. His public approval ratings have fallen to single digits, and he has indicated he is likely to step down soon as prime minister.