- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

5:13 p.m.

The leaders of Detroit’s automotive industry told President Bush today that they are committed to continuing to develop vehicles that use renewable fuels to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

However, the Big Three automakers added that if the American automotive industry is to be competitive with Asian imports, the federal government must take a leading role in helping lower the costs of health care, balancing the trade deficit with Japan and ending tariffs on imported steel.

“It was a very good dialogue — very open, back and forth,” said General Motors Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner. “In a number of areas, there was agreement in the things we could continue to work on.”

The auto executives, who included Alan Mulally, Ford Motor Co. chief executive, and Tom LaSorda, president and chief executive officer of DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group, said the president didn’t agree with them on everything, particularly what they see as an unfair trade balance with Japan.

“It’s our strong conviction that the Japanese yen is systematically undervalued, which helps them to maintain significant trade-balance surpluses in our industry,” Mr. Wagoner said.

Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials were present for the Oval Office meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour .

Mr. Bush cited a “mutual desire to reduce our dependence on imported oil.”

“And so we found a lot in common,” Mr. Bush said. “We’ll have a continuing dialogue that’s in our interest. “It’s the beginning of a series of discussions we’ll have, not only with me, but with people in our government.”

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