GATS 2000: New Directions in Services Trade Liberalization

By Pierre Sauvé; Robert M. Stern | Go to book overview

COMMENT BY Toru Aizawa

To Japan, it is important to cast the looming GATS negotiations in the context of the country's current economic situation. The Japanese economy is now facing a severe situation. High unemployment and significant corporate restructuring prevail. The need for drastic economic reform to revitalize the economy is well understood among Japanese people, as is the need to expand employment opportunities.

Under the prime minister's leadership, various government ministries are currently discussing how best to stimulate the economy and reformulate the country's economic system, with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry playing a key role. Focusing first on deregulation, Japan is now deliberating the new steps to take in the priority sectors of telecommunications and information technology as well as in a host of other sectors. In so doing, it is widely acknowledged that promoting the domestic service industry, through deregulation and other measures, holds the key to business expansion and greater employment. It is also recognized that an efficient and dynamic service industry will be a basis for sound and efficient overall economic activity in Japan. Accordingly, I believe that the next set of negotiations offers a unique possibility to bring greater vitality to the Japanese services sector and indeed to the entire Japanese economy.

Recent data reveal the excellent performance of foreign-affiliated service industries in the Japanese market, and we can see, in our daily life, the success stories of these industries all over the country. The latest figures issued on foreign direct investment inflows to Japan revealed a tremendous increase in services sector investment into Japan: fully two and a half times bigger in 1998 than that registered the previous year. In the crucial financial services sector, a 182 percent increase took place; in telecommunications, an even more remarkable 400 percent increase was noted.

In February 1999 the Committee of Industrial Structure Council chaired by Professor Iwata from Tokyo University submitted an interim report on the GATS 2000 negotiations. The report advocated a comprehensive negotiation, with no sectors excluded on an a priori basis. It also recommended a horizontal approach and the development of multilateral disciplines on domestic regulation. The report drew further attention to the need to introduce more transparency and predictability in government procedures for the supply of services in all markets. Another novel feature

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