The Automotive Trade Policy Council (ATPC), which campaigns on behalf of General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler against what it claims is an artificially weak yen, said Japan's announcement earlier this week of record-breaking trade and current account surpluses was compelling evidence that the US needs to pressure Japan to urgently realign its heavily undervalued currency.

ATPC said Japan's overall trade surplus increased by 62.1% in March, its largest increase in three years, and its current account surplus rose 37% in March to reach an annual record of $US176.4bn.

It claims Japan's weak yen policy has targeted the US auto sector in particular, with over 50% of the vehicles produced in Japan now slated for export to other countries, the highest rate in nearly 20 years.

Japanese auto exports to the US rose 9%% in the first quarter of 2007 over last year.

"Japan's latest trade figures bring home the real-world consequences impact of the misaligned yen," said Stephen Collins, president of the ATPC. "This is not an innocent or victimless policy. Japan's exports and global trade surplus are hitting record levels because of the weak yen.

"Its auto exports to the US continue to surge, while sales back in Japan decline. We know that almost half of all Toyotas sold in the US, for example, are now imported from Japan, not built in American plants."

Collins continued, "Congress has given notice that it will not stand aside if the US government continues to turn a blind eye to Japan's beggar-thy-neighbour currency and trade practices.

"These latest Japanese trade figures provide further evidence that the time for action is now."