Postal reform minister Shizuka Kamei said Friday the U.S. should take a “calm” approach to government plans that will allow state-owned postal companies to expand their businesses.
Michael Punke, the U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization, and John Clarke, the European Union’s charge d’affaires, were expected to meet in Geneva later in the day with their Japanese counterpart to express concerns that an overhaul of Japan Post Holdings Co. may hinder competition.
“It would be best for the U.S. to show restraint in this matter,” Kamei told reporters in Tokyo. It is “abnormal” to raise the issue at the WTO while legislation is still being considered by the Diet, Kamei said.
The bill calls for doubling the deposit cap at Japan Post Bank to ¥20 million.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said April 7 that Japan’s postal companies may get an unfair advantage over U.S. lenders, insurers and express-delivery companies. The government sent its postal reform bill to the Diet on April 30.
Japanese banks have also criticized the legislation.
Eight major groups of private-sector lenders have renewed their warning that the government’s proposed legislation to scale back the planned privatization of Japan Post would undercut the economy by obstructing smooth credit flows to would-be regional borrowers.
“There are strong anxieties that the legislation would hamper the sound growth of the national economy by generating such effects as the blocking of the smooth execution of (private lenders’) financial intermediary functions for regional economies,” the groups said in a joint statement Thursday.
The eight groups, including the Japanese Bankers Association and the Regional Banks Association of Japan, issued the joint statement two days after the House of Representatives kicked off deliberations on the legislation.
The legislation calls for reorganizing state-owned Japan Post Holdings Co.’s five-company structure into three firms in October 2011 and empowering the government to continue to hold more than one-third of Japan Post Holdings’ shares.
JBA Chairman Masayuki Oku, also president of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., said Japanese voters do not have adequate levels of understanding of the legislation, unlike in the case of the 2005 legislation to privatize Japan Post, which was spearheaded by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The eight groups adopted the joint statement at the first meeting of the newly established study group of private-sector financial institutions critical of the current government-proposed bill to revamp the Japan Post system.
The JBA and other groups have balked at the envisioned hike in the cap, saying it could trigger a shift in savings from commercial lenders to Japan Post, where depositors would believe their savings would have a greater degree of government protection in the event of a banking-system crisis.
In the statement, the eight urged the government to maintain the current “screening regime,” under which Japan Post group firms are obliged to seek government approval whenever they want to expand their business operations to increase their profitability.
The groups also urged the government to obligate Japan Post Bank to seek approval from an advisory council the government is planning to set up whenever it wants to raise its cap further, rather than being allowed to raise the cap on the basis of a mere ordinance, while obliging the council to hold adequate deliberations on each application on such a hike.
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