Congressional Resolutions on Deregulation of Japan's Markets

On July 20, the U.S. House of Representatives approved Rep. Doug Bereuter's (R-Nebraska) resolution (H.Res. 392) "relating to the importance of Japanese-American relations and the urgent need for Japan to more effectively address its economic and financial problems and open its markets by eliminating informal barriers to trade and investment." The resolution passed by a vote of 391 to 2.

During the House's debate on H.Res. 392, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Michigan) referred to the "iron economic curtain" in certain sectors in Japan, including flat glass, autos and auto parts, film, paper and forest products, and telecommunications. Congressman Bereuter spoke about the "difficulties we face in market access today in Japan" and cited the flat glass, insurance, and pharmaceuticals markets as examples.

U.S. Senate

Last Thursday the Senate passed by a vote of 98 to 2 an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill expressing the "sense of the Senate" regarding the impact of Japan's recession on the economies of East and Southeast Asia and the United States. The amendment was sponsored by Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut).

The amendment urges the U.S. administration to (i) "emphasize the importance of financial deregulation, including banking reform, market deregulation, and restructuring bad bank debt as fundamental to Japan's economic recovery" and (ii) "communicate to the Japanese Government that the first priority of the new Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet should be to restore economic growth in Japan and promote stability in international financial markets."

In his floor statement, Senator Lieberman expressed his "deep hope, deep plea, that change be implemented." He said the United States is "following Japan's economic performance with increasing anxiety and is very concerned about the pressure that Japan's current economic crisis is putting on our overall bilateral relationship."

According to Senator Lieberman, this resolution was intended to be a message to the LDP to "not just choose a new leader but to choose a new bold course which will directly address the economic crisis."

In separate action, the Senate approved on July 16 S.Con.Res. 88, calling on Japan to have an open, competitive market for consumer photographic film and paper and other sectors facing market access barriers in Japan. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-New York), whose state is home to Kodak. It was first proposed as a response to the WTO dispute settlement panel's decision on the film case involving Kodak and Fuji and calls on the GOJ "to fully support the representations" made before the panel. S.Con.Res. 88 passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

Congressman Amo Houghton (R-New York) introduced the companion measure in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.Con.Res. 233). However, at this time there are no plans to schedule a vote on the resolution since Rep. Bereuter's measure, H.Res. 392, delivers a similar message.

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