The Japanese economy will soon achieve self-sustaining growth and should dramatically outpace this year's official growth projections, according to the head of the country's leading trade-promotion group. Noboru Hatakeyama, the chairman and chief executive of the Japan External Trade Organisation, predicts gross domestic product will grow by more than 1.5 per cent in the financial year to next March. 'The economy has already started bearing fruit,' he told business leaders yesterday at a luncheon sponsored by the General Chamber of Commerce. 'So self-sustaining recovery is not just a hope but will become reality soon.' Mr Hatakeyama, a former official in the Ministry for International Trade and Industry, said the Japanese Government was forecasting GDP growth of just 1 per cent. But he said strong growth in industrial production would push the economy ahead dramatically. Mr Hatakeyama said industrial production had grown by 6.5 per cent in the January-to-March quarter compared with the same period last year, and was projected to grow by an even-stronger 8.6 per cent in the second quarter. Industrial production accounts for about 30 per cent of Japan's GDP. So even if growth in the rest of the economy turned out to be flat in the present quarter, the overall economic growth rate for that quarter would come in at a brisk 2.5 per cent, he said. To be on the safe side, though, Mr Hatakeyama is forecasting GDP growth at just 1.5 per cent for the present financial year - still 50 per cent faster than the official estimate. He said the Federal Reserve board's decision to guide interest rates in the United States higher by 0.5 percentage point would have no effect on the Bank of Japan keeping its near-zero interest rate policy.