A voluntary export restriction (VT) or voluntary export restriction is a government-imposed limit on the quantity of a class of products that can be exported to a particular country for a period of time. They are sometimes referred to as “export visas.”  When the U.S. auto industry was threatened by the popularity of cheaper, less fuel-intensive Japanese cars, a 1981 voluntary restraint agreement limited the Japanese to export 1.68 million cars a year to the United States, as established by the U.S. government.  Initially, this quota was to expire after three years, in April 1984. However, in the face of a growing trade deficit with Japan and pressure from domestic producers, the U.S. government extended quotas for an additional year.  The ceiling was increased to 1.85 million cars for this additional year and to 2.3 million in 1985. Voluntary deduction was lifted in 1994.  VERs are generally used for exports from one country to another. VERs have been in use at least since the 1930s and are used on products ranging from textiles and footwear to steel, machine tools and automobiles.
In the 1980s, they became a popular form of protection; they did not violate the provisions of the countries in force under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Following the GATT cycle that ended in Uruguay in 1994, members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed not to introduce new VERs and to terminate existing ERVs over a four-year period, with exceptions that could be granted to one sector in each importing country. VERs are generally created when industries seek refuge from competing imports from certain countries. The exporting country then proposes veRs to appease the importing country and prevent it from imposing explicit (and less flexible) trade barriers. The Japanese auto industry has responded by building assembly plants or “transplants” in the United States (particularly in the southern states of the United States, where there are right-to-labor laws, unlike Rust Belt countries with established unions) to produce mass vehicles. Some Japanese manufacturers that had their graft assembly plants in the Rust Belt, like Mazda.B. Mitsubishi, had to enter into a joint venture with a Big Three manufacturer (Chrysler/Mitsubishi, which became Diamond Star Motors, Ford/Mazda, which became AutoAlliance International). GM founded NUMMI, which was initially a joint venture with Toyota, which then grew to a Canadian subsidiary (CAMI) – a GM/Suzuki that was consolidated and became a geographic division in the United States (its Canadian counterparts, Passport and Asuna, were ephemeral – Isuzu-autos produced during this period were sold in captivity). The Japanese Big Threes (Honda, Toyota and Nissan) have also started exporting larger and more expensive cars (soon among their newly created luxury brands like Acura, Lexus and Infiniti – luxury brands have detached themselves from their mass-marketed parent brand) to earn more money with a limited number of cars.