Japan Seems Pleased with Signs of Activist US Economic Policy A NEW MODEL?

Article excerpt

SMILES of self-satisfaction are spreading among leaders in Tokyo as they watch President Clinton pursue a Japanese-style industrial policy for the United States.

But Tokyo officials are more than flattered about this American imitation of Japan's economic strategy, one in which the Japanese government has intervened to help key industries become more competitive in world markets.

Clinton's moves help reassure Japan about its new assertiveness both in promoting the Japanese model of capitalism as one that is better than Western models for developing nations and in shaping a global economic order after the cold war. "It is a mistake to think that the capitalism of a matured European or American economy is the only kind of capitalist economy," said Yasuhiro Nakasone, a former prime minister, at a recent forum.

Japan's postwar economic policies, regarded widely in the West as mercantile and unfair, have included such practices as protection of emerging high-tech industries from foreign competition and government "guidance" in technology research, as opposed to the laissez-faire faith in free-market forces often practiced in the West.

Many of Japan's barriers to foreign competition still remain, US Ambassador Michael Armacost said in a recent speech. The Japanese "establishment regards these {barriers} not as aberrations from international norms, but as practices whose appropriateness is confirmed by Japan's success," he added.

In China, Russia, and other nations, as well as in multilateral lending banks, Japan has eagerly begun to push its economic lessons, while criticizing traditional Western advice to developing nations.

Until now, Japan has been rather modest in presenting its development policies to the rest of the world, according to Isao Kubota, a deputy director general in Japan's Finance Ministry.

Last year Japan asked the World Bank to study Japan's post-war economic policies as well as the success of five other East Asian nations: South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

East Asia's fast-growing economies "recognize their economic development has been achieved through a set of shared Asian values," says Eiichi Furukawa, director of the Japan Center for International Strategies. Such values, he says, include a strong work ethic, group loyalty, consensus decisionmaking, esteem for education, and development of democracy amid political stability. …