The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says he has "never been more discouraged" about trade relations between the United States and Japan.

Richard Lesher, speaking in Tokyo to the executive chamber of the Japan and Tokyo Chambers of Commerce, said Japan's continuing trade surplus and "hesitant" response to the Gulf war were to blame for his pessimism."The time for modest improvements and expressions of good intentions is past," Lesher said, noting that the surplus has grown partly because of Japanese non-tariff barriers to American goods, services, and investment.

Moreover, he said, since the end of the Cold War the United States has become less concerned about the geopolitical issues and "sees the world through an economic prism."

Lesher said Japan's response to war in the Persian Gulf had been inadequate.

"I would find it difficult to adequately express the frustration many Americans feel about that," he said.

But Lesher took note of the "powerful and stimulating" business relationship between the two nations, and said he was confident the Japanese "share our values of political and economic freedom."