President Bush sympathizes with slumping U.S. auto manufacturers but won't push for lower Japanese imports or other assistance to help the industry survive the recession, the White House says.
Spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Bush made no promises last week in an unusual joint meeting with Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee Iaccoca, Ford Motor Co. Chairman Harold Poling and Robert Stempel, chairman of General Motors Corp. The executives requested the session."The president listened to their concerns, told them that we would consider their problems, but took no position on any of the specific issues," Fitzwater said Monday. "So there are no decisions to come out of the meeting, no course of action."
Spokesmen for the three companies, which are expected to post combined losses of $3 billion in the current quarter, declined to provide details of the conversation.
But Fitzwater said the subjects included the recession, automobile imports and legislation pending in Congress that would require drastic improvements in fuel economy.
He said that when Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu meet on April 4 in California, "I'm certain they'll be talking about trade and economic issues."
Iaccoca told Bush in a letter March 6 that unless the Japanese begin cutting vehicle shipments to the United States, their share of the U.S. market will hit 40 percent. If that happened, he said, Chrysler would be "gone" and Ford "could be mortally wounded." GM, the world's biggest automaker, would be "at risk," Iaccoca wrote.