What Does Japanese Trade Structure Tell Us about Japanese Trade Policy?
Some argue foreign access to Japanese markets remains tightly controlled and that if Japan is to be a member in good standing of the international economic system, Japan must do more than just adhere to the formal rules of the GATT; Japan must show by the results of its international economic transactions that foreign access to its market is not tightly controlled. As this point of view is increasingly dominating American economic diplomacy with Japan, it is particularly important that its premise be examined. First I examine Japan's growth record and trade record. To the extent that Japan's trade performance is different, I explore whether the difference can legitimately be attributed to Japanese policies. This paper finds that neither the price behavior of Japanese firms nor the pattern and volume of what Japan imports or exports suggests that Japan's trade regime is different. Some of Japan's economic institutions may be distinctive but there is little evidence they produce outcomes which distort the international economic system. What remains to be explained is the conviction of so many that Japan is more a parasite than a pillar of the international economic system. The record of economic research directly and indirectly bearing on this issue does not support such a conclusion at all.
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