Foreign businesses in Japan expect political leaders to facilitate fair competition by promoting further deregulation and harmonizing Japanese standards with global rules, said Isabelle Hupperts, chairwoman of the European Business Community.
“There is great resistance still in Japan to change because change is painful,” said Hupperts, who assumed the post 18 months ago. “Politicians, as representatives of the people, should probably facilitate competition for the good of the economy.”
The EBC, established in 1972, is the trade policy arm of 13 national European chambers of commerce and other business associations in Japan.
“Japan is a very important trade partner for European companies. We are positive about staying in Japan for a long time. To do that, there are certain things the government could do to facilitate our development, for example further deregulation in some areas,” Hupperts observed.
Pointing to the regulated environment and inefficient business practices in certain Japanese industries, including the construction and port and harbor sectors, Hupperts said European firms are seeking more transparency in Japanese businesses.
Transparency in business processes will bolster fair competition and consequently give Japanese consumers more choices and low-cost products and services, she said.
With foreign countries intensifying pressure on Japan to liberalize its markets and the rapid globalization of the economy, Japan has been forced to overhaul its industrial structures and promote deregulation.
To effectively and quickly change the systems, however, Hupperts suggested that the government — including politicians — work to formulate a policy to carry out its various programs.
Although Japanese policymakers have created good ideas and strong slogans on deregulation, it seems difficult for them to shape a concrete agenda for their implementation, she said.
For example, Europe and Japan formed an agreement last year for mutual recognition of standards in five sectors, including telecommunications terminal equipment and electromagnetic compatibility, but no legal framework has yet been made, Hupperts explained.
She said that Japanese politicians can initiate analysis of the situations and try to formulate a more specific policy in terms of implementation of government plans.
“There are many pending issues where questions are not answered. I hope the next generation of politicians will be more accountable. Accountability will make (for) more specific action plans,” Hupperts said.
The official campaign for the June 25 Lower House election kicks off Tuesday, and Hupperts said Japanese voters should state what they expect of politicians.
“Perhaps Japanese people should be a little more involved in the decisions that are made by politicians instead of saying it can’t be helped,” said Hupperts, who has lived in Japan for some 20 years.
“I think the responsibility for representing the people comes from the people. If the people are not happy, they should say so,” she said, while noting that she is not in a position to judge the state of Japanese politics.
Hupperts also pointed out the importance of the Japanese media in informing and educating the public about the problems that Japan faces.
“The media should wake up Japanese people to very important questions, because politics is about daily life,” she said, adding that media coverage should be more tuned in to what the government is actually saying and less focused on politicians’ personalities.