It took weeks of cajoling by trade officials, but President Bush has raised the symbolic stakes of his early January trip to Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo by agreeing to take along a group of top U. S. executives. The purpose, says Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher, is to convince Asian leaders that "we expect the same open markets in these countries that we provide in the U. S."
The presence of Chrysler Chairman Lee A. Iacocca, an outspoken critic of Japanese trade practices, is sure to get the attention of Asian officials. The White House selected other executives for their leadership roles in trade advisory panels and business groups. For example, American Express Chairman James D. Robinson III heads a key panel advising the U. S. Trade Representative. Dexter F. Baker of Air Products & Chemicals and John T. Hartley of Harris Corp. are top officials of the National Association of Manufacturers.
These big names may impress foreign leaders, but Congressional Democrats will be a tougher sell. Success, says House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), "should be judged by whether the President wins measurable commitments for trade concessions from Japan and whether he persuades Japan to assume more of the costs of our military presence in Asia." Since the entourage has no real business to transact, that will be a tough standard to meet.