Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday told the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that Japan is determined to push through structural reforms, government officials said.

“There is no change in our reform policy. Structural reforms have proceeded steadily,” Koizumi told OECD Secretary General Donald Johnston in a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

Johnston told Koizumi he is aware that Japan’s economic structural reforms have produced results and wants to support the government’s continued efforts, the officials said.

Koizumi was also quoted as saying that he does not agree with those who encourage perceptions of China as a threat to Japan, emphasizing that the two nations can cooperate even in competitive circumstances.

Johnston told Koizumi he believes China can offer Japan important opportunities, they said.

OECD chief optimistic

Donald Johnston, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, on Friday gave a positive evaluation of the Koizumi administration’s structural reform plans.

“The OECD has been very encouraged by reform projects by the Koizumi government,” Johnston told a press conference in Tokyo. “It appears for the first time in many years that a political will is present to carry forward some difficult structural reforms.”

Although many countries are engaged in such radical overhauls, the existence of the necessary political commitment is essential to their implementation, Johnston said.

Commenting on the criticism that Koizumi is taking too long to get reforms under way, Johnston expressed his understanding of the time that such efforts tend to take.

In the United States, economic reform efforts that began in the late 1970s paid off in the prolonged economic expansion of the 1990s, Johnston said, adding that public understanding and support is essential, since such reforms often cause short-term pain before they deliver benefits.

Johnston also criticized the recent U.S. action to impose curbs on steel imports, describing the action as “a short-term gain probably for a long-term pain.”

Johnston described the import curbs as “very unfortunate” since they came just as OECD member countries were discussing ways to reduce the over-supply of steel products on a global basis.

While pointing out that the import curbs were a major gesture by the U.S. administration, Johnston said the world should not see the action as a weakening of the U.S. commitment to free trade.

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