As the ongoing economic slump continues to plague many firms, some company leaders argue that Japan’s four major business organizations, which have separately published a number of reports on similar issues, should somehow be consolidated.

The four groups are the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), Japan Federation of Employers’ Associations (Nikkeiren), and Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

But according to the newly appointed chairman of Keizai Doyukai, such an argument is nonsensical.

Each of the four, particularly Keizai Doyukai, has a different origin and unique characteristics, and streamlining the organizations would not make sense, said Fuji Xerox Co. Chairman Yotaro Kobayashi, who became Doyukai chairman at a general meeting Thursday. “Doyukai has many young members. Females play important roles here and foreigners are also members. Those are the characteristics of Doyukai, compared with other business organizations,” Kobayashi said in an interview with The Japan Times.

Koyabashi said he wants to fully utilize the rich backgrounds of Doyukai’s members, who participate as individuals, not company or industry group representatives.

Doyukai, often compared with Keidanren, compiles a number of reports.

Keidanren, as the name suggests, groups businesses representing the interests of a variety of industries and serves as their lobby, Kobayashi said.

But Doyukai is based on the private activities of business leaders. It can often offer opinions from business circles different from those in Keidanren, he said.

Doyukai has long called for market-oriented structural economic reforms, particularly those centered on deregulation and small government. The group has already compiled a number of reports with proposals for such changes. Kobayashi said he will emphasize the importance of monitoring the implementation of those policies by the government and Doyukai during his two-year term.

Kobayashi joined Fuji Photo Film Co. in 1958 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics from Keio University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance and Commerce. He was later assigned to Fuji Xerox in 1963 and became a chairman in 1992.

Kobayashi also served in key positions on a number of government advisory panels. At Doyukai, he compiled reports on subjects such as the economy, international relations and education.

He said he wants to review and study the basics of Japanese society during his tenure to gear the country up for the new millennium.

The main themes will include corporate governance of Japanese companies, diplomatic relations, particularly with China and the United States, and education at schools, he said.

Kobayashi appeared to be particularly interested in corporate governance.

He said many Japanese companies are becoming more Westernized, as economic globalization is proceeding faster than expected by many business leaders. “(Many) believed that time still remains (to prepare for the change), but it has rapidly been running out,” Kobayashi said.

But he rejects the easy, simplified comparison of Japanese companies with American or European firms, arguing that the reality is more complicated than the stereotypes. Successful companies often have many elements in common, regardless of whether they are Japanese.

If anything, Kobayashi claimed, a major characteristic of Japanese companies is their “sense of sharing.”

At Japanese firms, more emphasis is placed on the interests of employees as a community, he said. Payment gaps between top management and workers are smaller, and worker loyalty to the firm is relatively strong.

“I think that sense of sharing will still play an important role at Japanese companies, even, say 10 or 20 years from now,” he said.

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