WASHINGTON (Kyodo) A U.S. life insurance industry group has sent a letter to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urging him to reform the “kampo” postal life insurance services.

“We believe strongly that your reform initiative offers the best hope in years for efforts to reconcile continued operations of kampo with the obligation to provide ‘treatment no less favorable’ to foreign services suppliers, such as our member companies operating in Japan,” Frank Keating, president of the American Council of Life Insurers, said in the letter.

A copy was obtained Monday by Kyodo News.

“We commend you for the courageous initiative you have set in motion,” Keating said. “We realize it has enormous consequences for the U.S., as well as Japan. We look forward to helping in any way we can to assure a successful effort for all involved.”

While citing a report released by the group in March about the kampo services, Keating urged Koizumi to put the postal life insurance services “under the same laws and regulations as its private-sector competitors.”

The U.S. industry group has alleged that kampo is receiving preferential tax and other treatments from the Japanese government.

The group’s March report said preferential measures provided by the government to kampo violate World Trade Organization rules requiring member countries to guarantee equal treatment for foreign firms.

In the letter to Koizumi, Keating said the Japanese government must “take into account the sheer size of kampo, the byproduct of years of government-provided advantage, when privatization occurs.”

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