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Research Areas & Themes ( 2013 ): Politics / Economics

Proposals for agricultural policy reform

Project Leader
Project Overview Agricultural policy is one of the factors that have hindered Japanese agriculture from becoming fully competitive on the international markets. There are three pillars underlying it: 1) a farm income guarantee policy that is over-reliant on price support policies; 2) a farmland policy that has focused only on preserving small landowner-farmers who are a product of the farmland reform, thus preventing farming scales from increasing through consokidation of farmland; and 3) the agricultural cooperative system that has supported the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA), which flourished through a shift away from agriculture as farming became a side business for most farmers and which led the fight for high rice prices as the nation's most powerful political pressure group in the post-war era. Although the direction of the reform needed in these areas is becoming clear, the government has yet to implement sufficient measures. Based on economic principles, we will present fundamental agricultural policy reform proposals that can make Japan's agriculture strong enough to compete on overseas markets. The proposals will emphasize reform in the above three agricultural policy areas: price support, farmland and agricultural cooperatives. We will exchange opinions with farmers and agricultural product processing and distributing companies across Japan to keep us up to date with the frontlines of agriculture.

Improvement and reform of agricultural management

Project Leader
Project Overview As full-time farmers develop, a trend toward collaborating with them is sprouting among such entities as leading trading companies, local commercial banks, agricultural funds, and venture firms. The public-private sector joint fund for the 6th Industrialization of agriculture by the government is also going to be established from this year. In technological aspects, these collaborations search for ways to introduce and apply information technology and biotechnology or to use enterprise-oriented management techniques. By supporting such movement and trend toward reforming Japan's agricultural structure, we aim to modernize and rationalize agricultural management, enhance the international competitiveness of Japan's agriculture, and help farmers cultivate export markets. As part of this effort, we will, while exchanging opinions with full-time farmers across Japan, explore the possibility of establishing specialized agricultural cooperatives mainly for full-time farmers and how these cooperatives should work.

Analysis of problems with Japan's economic policies by studying agricultural and healthcare policies

Project Leader
Project Overview Agricultural and healthcare policies have many things in common although they have been implemented by two different ministries. Such similarities are typically found between rice price policy and medical fee policy, between the acreage reduction program and the regulations on the number of hospital beds, and in the prohibition of business activities by joint-stock companies. Even in other fields of administration, revenues and interests of industries and their stakeholders have been dependent more or less on the nation's "price support policies" combined with supply restrictions, including bid rigging in the construction industry, the "convoy system" for banks, and the minimum wage system. These policies build on a zero-sum philosophy rather than plus-sum. Vested interest groups oppose deregulation and trade liberalization on fear that their share of the pie may reduce rather than increase. We will analyze policies in these multiple fields to identify problems in the formation process of the Japanese economic policies and will search for the ways to eliminate these problems.

Investigation and analysis of developments in WTO/TPP negotiations

Project Leader
Project Member(s)
Project Overview

In general the WTO has successfully lived up to expectations, particularly as a dispute settlement body, except in the Doha Round of negotiations. Its dispute settlement process is used by more and more developing countries and new member states like China. And as China's economy and trade grow, disputes are highly likely to arise over issues deeply related to Japan. To help Japan prepare for such situation by adopting adequate strategies for trade in agricultural products, we will perform 1) an analysis of the deadlock situation of the Doha Round and 2) an in-depth analysis of how agricultural issues are dealt with under the dispute settlement system, which is the most successful function of the WTO.
With regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), we have already published a report that analyzed and summarized the facts about TPP and the issues associated with the participation in TPP from the economic, legal and political viewpoints. Now that Japan joined TPP negotiations, we will study and analyze the progress of the TPP negotiations in various fields and identify the preferable course of action for Japan in the negotiations, along with domestic policies needed.

Forestry policy research

Project Leader
Project Overview Forests account for two-thirds of Japan's land area. They have become a focus of attention for the role they play in recharging water resources and preventing flooding, as well as absorbing greenhouse gases. However, forests are not performing these external economic functions fully even though Japan is said to have entered an era of supply consisting mainly of domestic lumber products. This is because of low lumber prices, which have depressed the forestry industry, and lack of thinning and other appropriate management of forests, Along with analyzing forestry issues from a variety of angles, we will identify conditions for reviving forestry and study policies necessary to achieve them.

Chinese economy

Project Leader
Project Overview

With employment and goods/real estate prices stabilized, China has seen good macroeconomic conditions recently. However, the policy agenda for the Xi Jinping administration includes piles of challenges, such as correction of income inequality, privatization of state-owned companies, overcapacity adjustment, and financial liberalization. We will analyze the Chinese economy mainly from the perspective of how China is addressing these challenges, in addition to a macroscopic viewpoint.
Another focus will be the impact of the Senkaku Islands issue, which has worsened Japan-China relations and seriously harmed Japanese companies' business in China. We will look at how the issue will affect the Japanese companies' attitude toward investment in China. At the same time, the research will continue to cover managerial efforts made by Japanese firms toward success in China and their managerial problems remaining unsolved.

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