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NO. 39 -- October 17, 1997

 

Feature Article

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT SPENDING IN JAPAN: HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN? by Jon Choy

This decade has been an eventful one for Japan's research and development community. After the go-go years of the late 1980s, the 1990s brought an economic slowdown deep enough to affect the R&D budget of government and corporate Japan alike. Total outlays slipped in FY 1993 and again in FY 1994, the first-ever declines. Japanese research spending now is back on an upward track, even though the economy still is struggling to regain its footing.

Nonetheless, the slump left a clear imprint on Japan's R&D program. While determined to spend more on developing applied know-how and adding to basic science, both companies and the government also want to boost the efficiency and the productivity of R&D spending. Accordingly, planners have withdrawn the virtual carte blanche extended in the late 1980s to many researchers to open investigations and buy equipment. Now, new project proposals and purchase orders are carefully scrutinized. In short, the economy's sluggish performance in the early 1990s sounded a wake-up call to Japan's R&D community to refocus and reevaluate research programs and practices.

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Weekly Review

Japan Wins Few Plaudits With Proposal For Climate Concord by Pat Murdo

As host for the yearend Third Conference of the Parties to a United Nations climate change agreement, Japan is in a sticky position. It is expected to be innovative in framing a proposal for cutting so-called greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. Yet its own leaders cannot agree on how fast or hard to push for change. In an effort to avoid appearing either too timid or too radical in its proposal for setting binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, the government of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto proposed October 6 that industrialized countries cut emissions of greenhouse gases by up to 5 percent of their 1990 levels by the year 2012 at the latest. The proposal's built-in flexibility &emdash; or what critics might call waffling room &emdash; has prompted headaches for the prime minister both internationally and domestically. Critics see the proposed reduction as too limited.

 

Japan Still Wary Of Expanding North Korean Ties by Barbara Wanner

The North Korean people may have been dancing in the streets October 8, overjoyed with de facto leader Kim Jong Il's formal assumption of the ruling party's leadership mantle. In Tokyo, though, foreign policy professionals did not regard the occasion as cause for much celebration. Pyongyang recently let it be known that Mr. Kim favors the development of "neighborly ties" between North Korea and Japan. Nonetheless, Japanese officials are only cautiously optimistic that the end of the North Korean leader's three-year mourning period for his father &emdash; the late Kim Il Sung, revered by North Koreans as the "Great Leader" &emdash; will propel forward long-stalled talks to normalize ties between Japan and the isolated, Marxist dictatorship.

 

Mergers Put Banking Problems On Front Burnerby Douglas Ostrom

Government policy toward Japan's troubled banks long has been grounded on a hoped-for equality between the burdens of meeting responsibilities to depositors and other stakeholders and the resources to meet those demands. As the banking industry's problems extend, by conservative reckoning, into a sixth year, this crossed-fingers strategy persists &emdash; despite the fact that the continued use of the ad hoc remedies employed to date would be adequate to meet projected burdens only by coincidence.

 

Port Practices Dispute Drifting Toward The Rocksby Jon Choy

Bilateral talks that started October 10 and ran well into the evening of October 15 failed to resolve American complaints that Japan's port practices discriminate against foreign shippers and constitute a hindrance to free trade. The working-level discussions went virtually nowhere despite Federal Maritime Commission sanctions against three Japanese vessel operating carriers that are estimated to have totaled more than $4 million for the month of September alone. The FMC began levying the penalties against the shipping companies September 4, but they did not have to pay the fines until the close of business October 15. That created a window for the negotiations to continue.

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