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Adventures in Shiiba - June 1995
Hollowing Out of Industry
I have noticed some very scary trends with respect to Japanese business. Many large Japanese companies are starting to move manufacturing operations to countries where labor is cheaper. American companies did the same thing during the 1980's. Millions of Americans lost jobs because of this. These job losses created many of the social problems that plague America today. What scares me is that Japanese company officials are saying the same things that their American counterparts did during the 1980's.
Japanese jobs are being moved overseas because companies are more interested in money than in their employees or their country. I have discussed this situation with friends who teach at Miyazaki International University and all have said that Japan is following the same path that America did and that Japan has not learned from America's mistakes. Unfortunately, unless Japanese companies stop this trend Japan will see mass unemployment and an increase in social problems. It is wrong to move manufacturing jobs overseas especially since it will be 15 to 20 years before Japan has the infrastructure for an "Information Age Economy." Trade Sanctions By now you have heard a lot about America's decision to impose a 100% tariff on all Japanese cars that cost over $35,000.
Many American and European companies feel that that the Japanese market is completely closed to foreign companies. I don't believe the Japanese market is completely closed for there are many foreign companies that have done quite well in Japan (Coca Cola, Mac Donalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Levi Strauss, ...). I do feel that with respect to automobiles and auto parts the market is closed.
If Japanese automobile companies were subjected to the same treatment by American officials the number of Japanese cars sold in America would be very small. Americans like Japanese cars because they are well built and affordable. I have had two Toyota Corollas.
Americans who build cars would like the "opportunity" to sell more of their cars in Japan. Many Japanese officials like to say that safety concerns are why Japanese regulations are so strict. To be quite blunt, with respect to crash protection safety features American cars are safer than Japanese cars. In addition, Japanese cars bound for the American market are actually safer than Japanese cars sold in Japan. Much of this has to do with the fact that the average highway speed in America is over 100 kilometers per hour.
My hope is that this issue will be resolved without the need for sanctions. If progress cannot be made then I think the 100% tariff is appropriate. A trip to America would convince you that in terms of cars and other items, there is a very great trade imbalance and that people in America have a right to be upset with Japanese regulations and corporate policies. When this issue is discussed in English people talk about wanting an "opportunity" to sell cars and parts in Japan. However, when presented in Japanese the feeling is that America wants to "force" Japan to buy cars and parts. Americans don't want forced sales, Americans want opportunities. "The American Dream" is based upon hard work, a bit of luck and equal opportunity.