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The Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) has picked Mr. Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Sumitomo Chemical Co., as its next leader. He will begin serving as chairman of Japan’s most powerful business lobby in late May. His appointment comes at a difficult time as the Japanese economy is suffering from deflation accompanied by high unemployment and the fear of prolonged economic sluggishness.

Nippon Keidanren and its predecessor had refrained from appointing a leader from a company that had its roots in a “zaibatsu” business conglomerate of the prewar period in order to avoid being influenced by such conglomerates. Mr. Yonekura, whose company is a core of the Sumitomo group, will be the first Nippon Keidanren chief from a company with a zaibatsu history.

He has globalized his company’s operations through many overseas projects, including major petrochemical plants in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. He also has work experience in the United States and served as chairman of the Japan-U.S. Business Council. Current Nippon Keidanren chairman Mr. Fujio Mitarai called him a “person with rich international experience, which is required in the current age.”

The biggest task for Mr. Yonekura will be to help place the Japanese economy on a recovery path. Although Nippon Keidanren had a close relationship with the Liberal Democratic Party, its relationship with the Democratic Party of Japan is weak. He will need to establish good communications with the DPJ and the Hatoyama administration so that the government and Nippon Keidanren can work together constructively.

The government has not fleshed out its package for economic growth. It is hoped that under the leadership of Mr. Yonekura, Nippon Keidanren will make meaningful proposals for economic growth to the government with a view toward promoting the interests of the whole nation.

Mr. Yonekura opposes the government’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. It is hoped, though, that Nippon Keidanren will seriously tackle the issue of turning Japan into a low-carbon society.

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