• Kyodo


The United States has urged Japan in an annual trade report to ensure equitable competition between the Japan Post group and private firms, particularly in the insurance sector, reiterating its concerns that the market is dominated by postal life insurance.

The postal insurance system “remains a dominant force,” said the 2010 National Trade Estimate, which was released Wednesday.

“The U.S. government has long-standing concerns about the postal insurance company’s impact on competition in Japan’s insurance market and is continuing to monitor closely the implementation of reforms,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives said in the report.

The report calls on Tokyo to ensure equal oversight of Japan Post’s financial institutions, including Japan Post Insurance Co., and private-sector companies.

While saying that the United States does not have a position on whether Japan Post should be privatized, the report asked the Democratic Party of Japan-led government to take all necessary steps to achieve “a level playing field between the Japan Post companies and private-sector firms in the nation’s banking, insurance and express delivery markets.”

On Japan’s subsidy program for environmentally friendly vehicles introduced last year, the USTR report welcomed the move but also called for a review because the number of American vehicles that qualify is “greatly limited.”

Washington said it “remains highly concerned by Japan’s unwillingness” to fully reopen its beef market to U.S. beef and beef products and called on Tokyo to adopt safety measures in line with the World Organization for Animal Health.

Japan suspended all beef imports from the United States after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was found in 2003.

It partially lifted restrictions but has kept its ban on imports of U.S. beef from cattle aged over 20 months.

The current treatment “has prevented the United States from regaining all but a small portion of its historic level of exports to the Japanese markets,” the report says.

Some U.S. politicians are stepping up pressure on Japan to fully reopen its market. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said he will take up the issue when he travels to Tokyo next week.

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