Foreign business communities on Oct. 7 urged Japan to further accelerate and deepen economic structural reforms to boost domestic demand and reduce its massive trade surplus.The opinions were voiced by foreign members of the Import Board, a subcouncil under the Trade Conference chaired by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, according to an official of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.The board, headed by Minoru Murofushi, chairman of C. Itoh & Co., consists of 10 foreign members and nine Japanese. Its opinions will be put forward to a meeting of the Trade Conference scheduled for December, according to the MITI official.During the meeting, board members gave a high mark to Hashimoto’s ongoing economic structural reform efforts, the official said. At the same time, however, they also emphasized the need to further accelerate and deepen the endeavor, citing the recent resurgence of Japan’s trade surplus.Given the prospect that the three-year deregulatory program will be completed at the end of March, board members strongly urged the government to continue taking deregulatory steps from April onward. In this regard, they said that a new third-party organization should be created to replace the Administrative Reform Council, a blue-ribbon government panel, when it winds up in December.As specific fields that should be targeted for further deregulation, board members mentioned telecommunications, medical equipment, maritime transportation services, land use and food.Some members pointed out that import promotion in the areas of medical and welfare services is especially important given Japan’s exorbitant medical costs. As other ways to boost imports, board members called for the harmonization of certification standards and further promotion of mutual recognition of test results for various products.

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