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Business leaders from Japan and the United States expressed their support Monday for a reduction in Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.’s interconnection charges, a move which they say is essential to information technology-led economic growth.

During the 37th Japan-U.S. Business Conference, Japanese and U.S. business leaders started full-scale discussions on bilateral economic issues ranging from electric commerce and patenting business processes to lowering NTT’s interconnection charges.

About 90 business leaders from the two countries took part in the three-day meeting, held in the form of a plenary session and small-group discussions. The conference is expected to issue a joint statement at the end of today’s session.

Japan and U.S. participants broadly agreed that an information technology revolution will contribute to the improvement of productivity and economic growth, said Michio Naruto, special representative of Fujitsu Ltd. and joint chair of the session.

“In the U.S., the IT revolution has contributed to the nation’s economic growth, and Japan can also expect similar progress by advancing the IT renovation,” he said at a press conference at the end of Monday’s conference.

Despite some participants expressing concerns that the IT revolution will deprive people of jobs, Naruto also said it will still create more employment opportunities as a whole.

Thomas Engibous, chairman, president and CEO of Texas Instruments Inc. and another joint chair, said the online economy in Japan is showing significant develop

ment, with cellular phones that can be connected to the Internet and online shopping malls set up by Japanese e-commerce operators.

Engibous pointed out that lowering interconnection and access charges could further stimulate the information technology revolution in Japan.

As the Internet economy has been expanding, governments and industries need to make further efforts to ensure cyber security and prevent cyber crimes, he said.

There was a suggestion for the creation of an international framework to examine the issue of business process patents because approving many such business patents could hinder the IT revolution, said Toru Hashimoto, chairman of Fuji Bank, who jointly chaired the session on services.

Concerning economic policy, participants said that when the U.S. economy slows down, the recovery of the Japanese economy will be important. In order to realize the recovery, Japan needs to further work on structural reforms, Hashimoto said.

The conference aims to enable business leaders to exchange views on a variety of economic issues and reflect the voice of the private sector in policymaking by the Japanese and U.S. governments.

Minoru Makihara, chairman of Mitsubishi Corp., paid tribute to conference members’ past efforts to have the private sector’s voice reflected in government policies: “With the increasing importance of the private sector in guiding our future course, I look forward to two days of open, frank and honest discussions.”

so that we can again have a useful . . . conference,” Makihara said.

Makihara and Michael Armstrong, chairman and CEO of AT&T Corp., are co-chairing the annual meeting, which ends today.

If the conference successfully issues a joint statement at its end, the representatives plan to submit policy proposals to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Wednesday, Makihara said.

In his opening remarks, Armstrong stressed that the annual conference must meet the demand of a market-driven economy and reflect the two sides’ opinions in this time of rapid change.

“With the new Cabinet in Japan and the forthcoming elections for president and Congress in the United States, we need to keep U.S.-Japan relations at the top of the agenda,” he said.

Speaking at a news conference later in the day, Armstrong said NTT’s interconnection charges should be addressed in the joint statement to be issued today.

“Japan is a powerful economic nation and technology-leading country,” Armstrong said. “NTT’s interconnection charges are higher than (South) Korea’s . . . higher than Peru’s . . . higher than Hong Kong’s. It is probably inappropriate at this time.”

During the plenary session Monday morning, Takashi Imai, chairman of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), urged Mori’s coalition government to draw up a long-term policy to ease the concerns of the public about their future.

Sanford Weill, chairman and CEO of Citigroup, meanwhile, explained how the U.S. economy experienced remarkable growth in the past decade, citing such factors as the reduction of government deficits and the growth in capital investment.