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16 November 2000
Japan: November 2000

The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its fifth review of Japan on 14 and 16 November 2000. The text of the Chairperson's concluding remarks is attached as a summary of the salient points which emerged during the discussion.

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First press release
Summary of Secretariat report
  > Summary of Government report

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The review enables the TPRB to conduct a collective examination of the full range of trade policies and practices of each WTO member countries at regular periodic intervals to monitor significant trends and developments which may have an impact on the global trading system.

The review is based on two reports which are prepared respectively by the WTO Secretariat and the government under review and which cover all aspects of the country's trade policies, including its domestic laws and regulations, the institutional framework, bilateral, regional and other preferential agreements, the wider economic needs and the external environment. A record of the discussion and the Chairperson's summing-up together with these two reports will be published in due course at the complete trade policy review of Japan and will be available from the WTO Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.

Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992 and 1999), Australia (1989, 1994 and 1998), Austria (1992), Bahrain (2000) Bangladesh (1992 and 2000), Benin (1997), Bolivia (1993 and 1999), Botswana (1998), Brazil (1992, 1996 and 2000), Burkina Faso (1998), Cameroon (1995), Canada (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1998), Chile (1991 and 1997), Colombia (1990 and 1996), Costa Rica (1995), C˘te d’Ivoire (1995), Cyprus (1997), the Czech Republic (1996), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992 and 1999), El Salvador (1996), the European Communities (1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2.000), Fiji (1997), Finland (1992), Ghana (1992), Guinea (1999), Hong Kong (1990, 1994 and 1998), Hungary (1991 and 1998), Iceland (1994 and 2000), India (1993 and 1998), Indonesia (1991, 1994 and 1998), Israel (1994 and 1999), Jamaica (1998), Japan (1990, 1992, 1995, 1998 and 2000), Kenya (1993 and 2000), Korea, Rep. of (1992, 1996 and 2000), Lesotho (1998), Macau (1994), Malaysia (1993 and 1997), Mali (1998), Mauritius (1995), Mexico (1993 and 1997), Morocco (1989 and 1996), New Zealand (1990 and 1996), Namibia (1998), Nicaragua (1999), Nigeria (1991 and 1998), Norway (1991, 1996 and 2000), Pakistan (1995), Papua New Guinea (1999), Paraguay (1997), Peru (1994 and 2000), the Philippines (1993), Poland (1993 and 2000), Romania (1992 and 1999), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992, 1996 and 2000), Slovak Republic (1995), the Solomon Islands (1998), South Africa (1993 and 1998), Sri Lanka(1995), Swaziland (1998), Sweden (1990 and 1994), Switzerland (1991 and 1996), Tanzania (2000), Thailand (1991, 1995 and 1999), Togo (1999), Trinidad and Tobago (1998), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994 and 1998), the United States (1989, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999), Uganda (1995), Uruguay (1992 and 1998), Venezuela (1996), Zambia (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).


We have had an open and informative discussion of Japan's trade policies. Members were encouraged by signs of economic recovery in Japan, whose economic prosperity is important for the continued recovery of the region, for the health of the world economy and the expansion of trade. Members attributed this nascent recovery largely to Japan's macroeconomic policies and structural reforms. At the same time, Members recognized that the multilateral trading system had contributed to the improved economic outlook for Japan, by keeping foreign markets open to Japan's exports. In commending Japan's recent efforts to implement deregulation and other structural measures, including the removal of barriers to foreign businesses, Members strongly urged Japan to continue its reform process and improve access to its markets for goods and services.

Members expressed their appreciation of Japan's active participation in the work of the WTO. Many Members underlined that their bilateral trade and investment ties with Japan had been strengthened over the recent period. Noting Japan's increased willingness to explore bilateral trade agreements, they sought (and received) assurance that such agreements would be WTO-consistent.

On trade and trade-related policies, Members remarked in particular on Japan's complex tariff (and tariff quota) structure and the fact that the use of non-ad valorem tariffs appeared to conceal high applied rates. Some Members also voiced concern about the complexity and seeming lack of transparency of government procurement practices. Furthermore, many Members were concerned about the complexity of Japan’s sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, including quarantine procedures. In addition, pointing to the low level of inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Japan, Members welcomed Japan's efforts to open further its FDI regime.

On sectoral policies, Members noted that the level of domestic support for agriculture was disproportionate to its share in GDP. While Members generally recognized that non-trade concerns did arise in agriculture, some urged Japan (among the world’s largest importers of agricultural products) to address these concerns in a manner that would not unduly distort trade. While recognizing that substantial reforms had been undertaken in the financial services and telecommunications sectors, Members expressed their belief that reform should continue with a view to enhancing competition in these sectors. They also urged Japan to extend reforms to other sectors, such as agriculture, transport, legal services and education services.

Members also sought further clarification in a number of areas, including:

  • matters concerning tariff classification and high tariff rates for certain goods;

  • the opacity and complexity of tariff quotas and quantitative restrictions;

  • alignment of national standards with international standards;

  • reform of standards and environment-related regulations;

  • competition policy;

  • the new agricultural policy embodied in the Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas;

  • impediments to market access for certain items, such as rice, leather, and forestry products;

  • Japan’s initiative to promote information technology;

  • restrictive business practices in Japanese ports;

  • independence of regulatory authorities in some areas, such as telecommunications, electricity;

Members expressed their appreciation to the Japanese delegation for their oral and written responses to the large number of questions posed by them, and for the Japanese delegation's undertaking to provide written responses as soon as possible to any outstanding queries.

In conclusion, it is my view that this Review has provided Members with a much better understanding of Japan's trade and trade-related policies, particularly regulatory and other structural reforms. Members were pleased to see signs of Japan's economic recovery; they strongly urged Japan to maintain the momentum of structural reform so as to ensure that the recovery is sustained. It is my sense that Members were reassured by Japan's commitment to multilateralism; nonetheless, they urged Japan to ensure that bilateral and regional arrangements were WTO-consistent. Members also looked to Japan for strong leadership in pursuing future multilateral trade liberalization, including in any new round of negotiations at the WTO.