Keidanren backs opening Japan's domestic markets
JAPAN'S leading business organisation wants Tokyo to further open up the country's markets to the world in line with the trade liberalisation theme advocated by the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum.
'Japan should open its market more. We think we are open to other countries, but still there are claims that there are difficulties in entering the market. Therefore we need to make greater efforts to open it,' said Katsuhiro Fujiwara, senior director of Asian Affairs at the Japan Federation of Economic Organisations, Keidanren .
The Keidanren has submitted a paper to the Japanese Government and companies to present, among other trade issues, a case for opening up the market of the country which hosts the next annual APEC meeting.
The government agreed with the paper in principle although it would be careful about certain details, according to Mr Fujiwara.
He said sectors such as telecommunications, transportation and finance had long been regulated by the government.
While some of this regulation was for safety and security there was room for deregulation to encourage business opportunities.
The paper submitted to the Japanese Government also urges trade liberalisation and de-linking human rights from trade in order to achieve free trade.
Mr Fujiwara was speaking at a lunch forum organised by the Asia Society-Hong Kong Centre, where his views were echoed by Jesus Estanislao, the Philippine representative on the APEC Eminent Persons Group.
Trade liberalisation must be made to cover services which should be deregulated for international trade, Mr Estanislao said.
He said APEC should be setting up the dispute settlement facilitation service, a mechanism for adopting a common product standard and for implementing the principle of 'tested once, accepted everywhere', and a programme for co-ordination in such key sectors as energy and the environment.
'Even as the bureaucrats keep busy with the details of the programme for freer and more open trade from the year 2000 up to 2020, focus should be trained on specific areas where agreements can be secured and where a decisive difference from APEC agreements can be felt by the business community,' he said.
'Behind the grand rhetoric, APEC should now be aiming at concrete, pragmatic results that can serve as logs that keep the fires burning and growing ever bigger.' Meanwhile, APEC will continue to have an eminent persons group meeting next year to study the specific steps to liberalise trade.
Also, he said, next year's APEC meeting in Osaka might feature a forum for economists of member countries to study the problems in trade liberalisation.
Also, next year APEC members would set out proposals as to how to promote trade liberalisation and negotiate for common agreement on how to achieve that end.
It would discuss matters such as anti-dumping and dispute settlement.
He expected changes in the membership of the Eminent Persons Group for next year, he said.
Mr Estanislao said APEC must be fully supportive of General Agreement for Tariffs and Trade as it aimed at breaking down trade barriers and freeing trade instead of forming a regional trade bloc.
'GATT is the best. APEC is a step forward [towards global trade liberalisation],' he said.