Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the Japan Federation of Employers’ Associations (Nikkeiren), said Wednesday the organization will soon set up a committee to consider merging with the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren).

“We will set up a committee within Nikkeiren and hold discussions on the matter at the earliest possible time,” Okuda said at a press conference.

“A merger would be a natural course to take in light of the mergers and reorganizations among government ministries and among various industrial sectors,” he said.

The committee will be comprised of several officials from Nikkeiren’s secretariat and Toyota Motor Corp., Okuda said. Okuda serves as Toyota’s chairman.

The committee will discuss issues including how to deal with Nikkeiren’s prefectural affiliates, administrative systems and differences in judicial status between the two groups, Okuda said.

If realized, the union would be the first merger among business organizations since World War II.

Nikkeiren is a non-judicial group consisting of 47 prefectural employers’ groups and 60 industry-specific associations and companies. Keidanren, Japan’s leading business lobby, is a Tokyo-based, government-approved corporate body representing more than 1,000 major companies and industry-wide organizations.

Okuda said that he hopes Nikkeiren produces a conclusion as early as possible.

Media reports last week stated the two groups may merge in 2002. Keidanren Chairman Takashi Imai and Okuda have been mentioning the possibility of a merger since the start of the year.