Japan’s national interests — including business opportunities for Japanese companies — should be taken into greater consideration when official development assistance is extended to a nation, a government panel said in a report released June 18.

The report, compiled by a subcommittee of the Industrial Structure Council, was presented to the minister for international trade and industry. The ministry will try to have the subcommittee’s opinions reflected in the ongoing discussions at the Council for Foreign Economic Cooperation, an advisory body to the prime minister, MITI officials said.

Earlier this month, the government decided to cut the ODA budget for fiscal 1998 by 10 percent as part of its efforts to restore the nation’s fiscal health. The report says Tokyo’s ODA must serve the interests of the Japanese as well as recipient countries if Japan intends to continue such economic assistance under the ongoing fiscal constraints.

It calls on the government to revamp its ODA policies, including abandoning the idea of setting a numerical target for ODA amounts. Instead, the report says, the government should create a new medium-term policy program, covering a period of three to five years and based on priorities that reflect not only Japan’s diplomatic but also economic interests.

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