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Cablegate: The Japan Economic Scope--August 23, 2007

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DE RUEHKO #3922/01 2360710
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240710Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6833
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
INFO RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 5696
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 2760
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 1782
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 5191
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 6381
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 11 TOKYO 003922

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PARIS PLEASE PASS TO USOECD
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USTR

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECON JA ZO EAGR
SUBJECT: The Japan Economic Scope--August 23, 2007

1. (U) This cable contains the Japan Economic Scope from August
23, 2007.

2.(SBU) Table of Contents

Political Moves
3. Official Discusses Japan's "Confused" Political Situation,
East China Sea and More
4. WTO Talks Set to Resume as Japanese Negotiators Face Cabinet
Reshuffle
5. Abe Visits Indonesia, EPA, LNG and Climate Change Top Agenda.
Food Fights
6. Beef: Both Sides Feeling Grilled
7. Farm Sector Protectionists Keep Up Pressure Against Doha
8. Upper House Election Results Not Good for Japan Agriculture
9. After Round Two, Agriculture Continues to Divide Japan-
Australia FTA Talks
10. Japan's Food Self Sufficiency Rate Drops Below 40 Percent
Business Interests
11. DOI DAS David Cohen Touts Japanese Business Opportunities in
Guam, Saipan and Palau
12. Local Governments Expecting Economic Windfall From New Sharp
Plant
13. Japan's Parent-Child Problem
14. Hoya-Pentax Merger
15. Tax Revenues Up in the Kansai
16. Bank of Japan Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged
17. GE to Pull Plug on Consumer Finance?
18. IAEA Says No Significant Damage to Plant (U)
19. TEPCO Officials Brief Embassy on Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear
Plant Damage
20. Earthquake's Reverberations Affect Power Supply to Industry
21. Showa Shell to Build One of World's Largest Solar Cell Plants
in Miyazaki
22. Inpex to Build LNG Terminal in Niigata
Product Safety and Security
23. Scrutinizes Product Safety
24. Rules for Japanese Internet Service Providers to Fight
Viruses
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
25. Japan Views Asia -- PM's Asia Gateway Report Online
26. Yokohama Port and Japanese Megaterminal Policy: Minor
Reforms with a lot of Business as Usual
27. Michigan's Gentex Dominates Unique and Growing Auto Parts
Sector
28. Toyota's "Sustainability Report 2007"
Sporting
29. Matsuzaka Victimized Again
30. "Gaman-tsuyoi" Prize Goes to Motorcyclist

---------------
POLITICAL MOVES
---------------

3. (SBU) Official Discusses Japan's "Confused" Political
Situation, East China Sea and More
--------------------------------------------- -----

According to our contacts, much of the legislation to be debated
in the next session of the Diet, including a bill aimed at
helping Japan meet its Kyoto Protocol carbon-emissions targets,
will likely stall due to the "confused" political situation
following the opposition victory in the recent Upper House
elections.

Our contacts also speculated the dispute with China over oil and
gas exploration rights in the East China Sea may be rekindled as
a result of this situation. Please see Tokyo 3819 for more on
the electoral fallout, the East China Sea dispute, Venezuela's
investment environment and Japan's offer to stockpile Saudi
Arabian oil. (ECON: Sally Behrhorst)

4. (SBU) WTO Talks Set to Resume as Japanese Negotiators Face
Cabinet Reshuffle
--------------------------------------------- -----

Foreign Ministry (MOFA) officials told us August 23 they want to
see a deal to bring the current multilateral trade round to a
successful conclusion, but recognize that obstacles remain.
Agriculture remains the most contentious area in the talks,
particularly given Japan's domestic political climate. Japan's
position will not be any easier after last month's Upper House

TOKYO 00003922 002 OF 011


elections.

The officials said they were not sure what sort of attitude the
Democratic Party of Japan and its coalition partners would take
toward the Doha process.

One official told us he did not anticipate any major changes to
Japan's Doha posture after PM Abe unveils his new cabinet on
August 27.

He added, however, that in contrast to other cabinet reshuffles,
this one was difficult to gauge. Few names are emerging in the
rumor mill. (Econ: Nicholas Hill)

5. (U) Abe Visits Indonesia, EPA, LNG and Climate Change Top
Agenda.
--------------------------------------------- -----

Prime Minister Abe, on the first leg of a three-nation Southeast
Asian tour, arrived in Jakarta on August 20 for a two-day visit
to Indonesia. Signing the Japan-Indonesia Economic Partnership
Agreement, Japan's sixth bilateral free-trade agreement, tops his
agenda.

The agreement will remove duties on 93 percent of Indonesian
exports to Japan and 90 percent of Japanese exports to Indonesia,
the latter representing a significant increase in tariff-free
access. The agreement exempts sensitive agricultural goods,
notably rice, although Indonesia has become a slight net importer
of rice in recent years.

Japan sought and obtained specific "energy security" provisions
in the new agreement that call for bilateral consultations after
the expiration of the current long-term liquid natural gas (LNG)
supply contracts expire in 2010-2011. The agreement does not
provide Japan a guaranteed energy supply, something it wanted but
which Indonesia, with its growing domestic energy demand,
resisted. Indonesian officials have already hinted that that
country's LNG exports to Japan will decline in the future.
Indonesia is currently Japan's number one supplier of LNG.

In addition to the signing, Abe sought Indonesian support for a
Japan climate change proposal for a post-Kyoto framework and gave
a public speech on the future of ASEAN. (ECON: David DiGiovanna)

-----------
FOOD FIGHTS
-----------

6. (SBU) Beef: Both Sides Feeling Grilled
--------------------------------------------- -----

U.S. and Japanese authorities continue to discuss the future of
U.S. beef trade to Japan. The United States would like to see
Japan adopt international standards based on science and allow
U.S. beef imports without age restrictions. Japan prefers a
political solution, allowing U.S. beef in from cattle under 30
months old.

On August 21, Japan's Agriculture Ministry (MAFF) passed its
report to the Embassy on the experts-level talks that took place
in June and early August. The Embassy's FAS Office is currently
translating the document.

MAFF officials originally told us the report would contain a
draft recommendation to open the market to U.S. beef from cattle
under 30 months old, but nixed that idea when it became clear the
two sides did not have a consensus.

Currently only beef from cattle 20 months old and younger is
allowed into Japan.

MAFF is also pressing the Embassy for more information on the
problem in Korea where banned bones were found in early August in
a shipment -- an error that lead to a cut off of trade.

Japanese authorities have told FAS that they anticipate a barrage
of questions on the matter during Diet deliberations beginning
August 23.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (MEF) reported that
U.S. beef imports to Japan doubled in June. This is partly due

TOKYO 00003922 003 OF 011


to the end of 100 percent box inspections of U.S. shipments, but
also due to seasonable availability of beef from cattle under 20
months old, the only product allowed under Japan's current
onerous trade regime. (ECON: Nicholas Hill)

7. (SBU) Farm Sector Protectionists Keep Up Pressure Against
Doha
--------------------------------------------- -----

Japan Agriculture (JA) does not like the modalities paper that
WTO Agriculture negotiations Chair Falconer distributed among
member countries over the summer and is working with other like-
minded organizations internationally to make its views better
known.

A JA official told us August 22 that the farmers' lobbying
organization had compiled a report of the views of similar
agriculture organizations internationally, although would not
share it with us.

Japan Agriculture News reported that JA Chairman Isamu Miyata
cannot accept the draft text in its current form. In particular,
he wants to see more latitude in identifying sensitive items.

WTO member states should be allowed to identify up to around 10
percent of all products as "sensitive," JA is arguing.

According to the newspaper, Miyata is also concerned about any
effort in the upcoming round of talks to boost Japan's market
access for rice. (Econ: Nicholas Hill/Ryoko Nakano)

8. (U) Upper House Election Results Not Good for Japan
Agriculture
--------------------------------------------- -----

Although last month's Upper House elections have been
characterized as a bust for those who favor agricultural reform
in Japan, that does not mean the country's leading protectionist
lobby, Japan Agriculture, fared any better.

According to the September edition of Foresight Magazine, the
protectionist farm lobby and cooperative continues to lose
political influence. Only 52 percent of JA-supported candidates
won seats.

That is down from 75 percent in the previous round of Upper House
elections when the LDP also suffered bad losses three years ago
and substantially beneath the norm of recent years.

Until its recent drop off in support, JA-supported candidates
usually won elections about 90 percent of the time.

Even its former Chairman, Toshio Yamada, barely squeaked out a
victory in his proportional seat, with only 450,000 votes.
Pundits noted that he probably had to get all the votes of the
270,000 nationwide JA staff. (Econ: Nicholas Hill/Ryoko Nakano)

9. (SBU) After Round Two, Agriculture Continues to Divide Japan-
Australia FTA Talks
--------------------------------------------- -----

Australian and Japanese negotiators concluded their second round
of FTA talks on August 10 in Tokyo. Some 18 sessions over five
days covered a range of areas that would be included in a free
trade agreement, with agriculture again providing the sticking
point.

MOFA and an Australian Embassy official told us the talks went
generally well across a number of other areas, including rules of
origin, goods market access, technical barriers to trade, energy,
government procurement, services, and investment.

Japanese negotiators, however, led by the Agriculture Ministry,
are continuing to insist that sensitive products -- including
dairy, barley, beef, rice, and tuna -- be carved out of the
discussions.

A Japanese official involved in the talks attempted to put the
best face on the impasse, but acknowledged that the agriculture
talks lagged behind the rest. Asked if the two sides moved their
agriculture discussion beyond what should be on or off the table,
the MOFA official said not yet.

TOKYO 00003922 004 OF 011

At this stage, the Japanese agriculture negotiators wanted to
state their case on why certain products needed to be carved out
of any deal, and the Australian side was prepared to hear them
out.

The MAFF officials who led the discussion asserted that including
sensitive items in an eventual deal with Australia would
devastate the local industry. They rehashed some of the static
analysis that the ministry put forward during a Council of
Economic and Fiscal Policy hearing in the spring.
The Australians will respond to the Japanese argument to exclude
sensitive items the next time the two sides meet, which is
expected to be in November in Canberra or Sydney. (ECON:
Nicholas Hill)

10. (SBU) Japan's Food Self Sufficiency Rate Drops Below 40
Percent
--------------------------------------------- -----

Japan's quixotic attempt to boost food self-sufficiency rates is
bumping up against another force: reality.

The Agriculture Ministry (MAFF) released data on August 10
showing that the country's food self-sufficiency rate dropped to
39 percent in 2006, down from 40 percent the previous year and
further away from its target of 45 percent by 2015.

The farm labor population is growing older and shrinking, with
farms going out of business and the Agriculture Ministry is
trying to turn back the tide by announcing the creation of
another office.

According to reports in Nikkei and the Tokyo Shimbun on August 22,
MAFF will open a Food Security Division to help boost the
country's self-sufficiency rates. A MAFF official confirmed to us
press reports that a study group under the Ministry will restart
discussions on liberalizing regulations on farmland that had been
temporarily shelved during the summer.

The Council for the Promotion of Regulatory Reform will also be
covering the same topic this fall.

Some officials in the Agriculture Ministry have been fairly frank
about the difficulty of raising the country's food self-
sufficiency rate much above where it is right now, including to
the press.

"It will be difficult to achieve that target," a Nikkei story
quoted a MAFF official on the likelihood of reaching the 45
percent self-sufficiency rate the government has set for itself
by 2015.

Economists we have talked to also do not see much prospect that
the government can reverse a trend that is deeply rooted in the
country's demographic trends and social realities. ECON:
Nicholas Hill)

------------------
BUSINESS INTERESTS
------------------

11. (U) DOI DAS David Cohen Touts Japanese Business
Opportunities in Guam, Saipan and Palau
--------------------------------------------- -----

During a visit to Japan, Department of Interior (DOI) Deputy
Assistant Secretary David B. Cohen met with Japanese business
groups and politicians, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan
(ACCJ), and the Japanese press. He received a high degree of
interest in the upcoming 4th Annual Secretary of the Interior's
Conference on "Island Business Opportunities" scheduled for
October 8-9 in Guam. (ECON: Josh Handler)

12. (SBU)Local Governments Expecting Economic Windfall From New
Sharp Plant
--------------------------------------------- -----

Sakai city of Osaka prefecture estimates that Sharp's new LCD
panel plant will create 11.11 trillion yen ($93 billion) for the
local economy over the first ten years of operation (the plant is
slated to open in 2010). Sharp's investment of one trillion yen

TOKYO 00003922 005 OF 011


($8.3 billion) is expected initially to infuse the local economy,
especially local construction companies, with 800 billion yen
($6.7 billion).

Sakai city tax revenue will see a 19 billion yen ($158 million)
increase in the first ten years and an additional 58 billion yen
($483 million) the following ten years as initial tax incentives
given to Sharp are phased out.

Sakai's job market stands to reap significant gains as well.
Professor Katsuhiro Miyamoto of Kansai University predicts the
number of new jobs could reach 80,000 with Sakai city being the
recipient of 52,000.

Job growth can be attributed to Sharp's encouragement of parts
makers such as glass manufacturers to set up shop near the site
of the new factory to help keep production costs down.

In addition, a solar battery plant with a production capacity of
100 mega watts will be constructed on site and will open in 2009.

The Osaka Prefectural Government has promised to provide Sharp
with a 15 billion yen ($12.5 million) subsidy for the new plant.
An Osaka prefectural official commented that the sizeable subsidy
will pale in comparison to the significant influx in tax revenue
from Sharp. (Osaka-Kobe: Scott Ravenhill/Naomi Shibui)

13. (SBU) Japan's Parent-Child Problem
--------------------------------------------- -----

U.S. private investment fund Perry Capital LLC is seeking to
acquire a larger stake in NEC Electronics, Co., a spin-off of the
Japanese IT giant, NEC Corporation, believing the smaller company
would be profitable if it were allowed to operate independently
of its larger parent.

The problem of an independently listed "child" firm operating in
the financial interests of its larger, "parent" company to the
detriment of minority shareholders' interests affects about ten
percent of all Japanese listed companies (compared to less than
one percent in the U.S.) and highlights a number of problems that
afflict minority shareholders in Japan.

Although Perry Capital has the support of the Tokyo Stock
Exchange and Japan's Pension Fund Association, NEC executives are
showing no signs of accepting the offer or giving credit to the
rights and interests of its child's minority shareholders.
Please see cable Tokyo 03771 for more details. (ECON: Antonio
Gonzalez)

14. (SBU) Hoya-Pentax Merger
--------------------------------------------- -----

This year's annual general shareholder meetings and the first
ever poison-pill ingestion had some investors' stomachs in knots
about M&A forecasts. But Hoya Corp.'s recent successful takeover
of Pentax Corp. shows that there is still room for corporate
takeovers in Japan.

Pentax issued a memorandum of understanding of a merger with Hoya
at the end of 2006 at 709 yen per share, a premium of about 10.5
percent over the price the day before the memo was released.
After heated internal debate, Pentax management ousted its CEO
and director, who had promoted the deal, and abandoned the plan.

Even though infighting among Pentax management effectively
resisted the deal, Hoya's persistence in seeking to acquire the
optical equipment maker paid off because U.S. firms Sparx Group
Co. and Fidelity Investments, Pentax's largest two main
shareholders, were eventually convinced of the value of Hoya's
bid.

The Hoya takeover shines hope for prospective takeovers in Japan,
boding well for investors that intend on building corporate value
for shareholders. Please see cable Tokyo 3823 for more details.
(ECON: Antonio Gonzalez)

15. (SBU) Tax Revenues Up in the Kansai
--------------------------------------------- -----
The Osaka National Tax Agency announced that 2006 tax revenues in
the Kansai's six prefectures from both individuals and
corporations have risen over the last three years. This year's

TOKYO 00003922 006 OF 011


overall tax revenue saw an increase of 4.5 percent from the
previous year with corporate tax revenues experiencing the
greatest jump at 9.3 percent. When comparing prefectures, Kyoto
had the largest tax revenue growth at 11.9 percent while Wakayama
only registered a 1.1 percent increase.

A senior economist at the Osaka Prefecture Institute of Advanced
Industry Development pointed out that economic gaps are becoming
more pronounced in the Kansai region despite its relatively small
area.

For example, the profit disparity between the top (large
companies) and bottom companies Small and Medium Enterprises
(SME) is expanding. On an individual level, while average income
tax revenue is rising, it is not being driven by higher salaries
for a wide swath of workers, but rather a few cases of large
increases in income by top-level earners. (Osaka-Kobe: Scott
Ravenhill/Naomi Shibui)

16. (U) Bank of Japan Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged
--------------------------------------------- -----

At its meeting which concluded on August 23, the Bank of Japan's
(BOJ) Monetary Policy Board decided to leave its target unsecured
overnight call rate at 0.50 percent by a vote of 8-1.

Market expectations of a rate hike had been as high as 70 percent
prior to the past week's financial turmoil, which saw these
expectations dissipate down to near zero just before the BOJ
meeting.

In its report following the meeting, the Bank of Japan confirmed
its view that the Japanese economy is expected to continue
expanding moderately. The Bank's comments on recent financial
developments were sanguine, noting that "the environment for
corporate finance remains accommodative," although "funding costs
for firms have risen slightly."

The report simply stated that "against the backdrop of increased
global uncertainties stemming from the sub-prime mortgage problem
in the United States," Japan's stock prices and long-term
interest rates had fallen and the yen's exchange rate against the
dollar had risen.

Finance Minister Omi welcomed the BOJ's decision at a press
conference. The Bank of Japan last raised interest rates in
February 2007. (FINATT: Maureen Grewe)

17. (U) GE to Pull Plug on Consumer Finance?
--------------------------------------------- -----

GE's consumer finance subsidiary Honobono Lake is believed to be
up for sale, according to media sources. Although GE Money
contacts would neither confirm nor deny the reports, GE is
apparently taking steps to sell Japan's sixth largest consumer
finance firm, following last year's Money Lending and Banking Law
revisions and the 2005's Supreme Court decision that exposed
money lenders to massive retroactive liabilities for "grey zone"
(overpaid interest) lending.

GE had previously announced plans to shutter 73 of 115 branches,
200 of its 1,342 cash machines and 48 regional collection offices
by the end of the calendar year.

All of Japan's major consumer finance firms have undergone
profound restructuring while making dizzying provisions against
grey zone claims; Citigroup has reduced its consumer finance
branch network in Japan by 80 percent and there has been ongoing
consolidation among smaller operators.

GE's Lake has approximately 800 billion yen in outstanding loans,
2500 employees, and could be auctioned off as early as next month.

(FINATT: Mateo Ayala)

-----------
JAPAN POWER
-----------

18. (U) IAEA Says No Significant Damage to Plant
--------------------------------------------- -----


TOKYO 00003922 007 OF 011


The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, affected by a 6.8
magnitude earthquake on July 16, safely shut down and damage
appears less than expected, according to a 47-page report
submitted by IAEA seismic safety review mission experts in early
August. Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) Chairman Atsuyuki Suzuki
asserted that some IAEA observations were in line with the
positions that NSC made public on July 30.

IAEA experts conducted a three-day physical examination of the
seven reactor units, analysis of instrument logs and interviews
with plant staff. The scope of the mission was limited to three
main areas: 1) study of the plant's seismic design; 2)
investigations of operational safety management response to the
release of radioactive material and 3) observation of the amount
of damage to the plant's structures, systems and components.
The report summarized that although the earthquake exceeded the
level of the seismic input taken into account in the design of
the plant, the installations behaved in a safe manner during and
after the earthquake. According to the team, this is probably due
to the conservatism in designing facilities at Japanese nuclear
power plants.

IAEA confirmed initial reports that the amount of radioactive
materials released was well below the authorized limits and posed
no threat to the environment. However, IAEA did ping TEPCO for
their delay in reporting the leakage of radioactive material and
recommend an improved accident reporting system. There were two
minor incidents of the release of radioactive material: one
through the exhaust stack of unit 7 and a second from the spent
fuel pool of unit 6.

For more information on the impact of the earthquake on the
nuclear power plant, see Tokyo 03296 and Tokyo 03263. (EST:
Ayanna Hobbs)

19. (SBU) TEPCO Officials Brief Embassy on Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
Nuclear Plant Damage
--------------------------------------------- -----

Two TEPCO officials were cautiously optimistic about meeting
electrical demand if the summer remained cool at a briefing for
Embassy staffers on the earthquake's impact on the Kashiwazaki-
Kariwa nuclear power plant on August 1. They anticipated a
maximum summer electricity demand of 61.1 million kw, but noted
that cutting supplies to heavy industrial users was a way to meet
a spike in demand.

When asked if they had a demand management approach that allowed
them to subsidize energy saving steps taken by end-users, they
replied they do not have such a system.

In terms of replacement power, they said they could obtain up to
62.14 million kw without the Kashiwazaki-Kari plant, but at an
additional cost. Aside from what TEPCO could get from other
utilities, TEPCO was exploring whether industrial sites that have
independent power systems could make some contribution to the
grid this summer since TEPCO would need several months to bring
moth-balled oil-fired plants back on line.

The TEPCO officials spent some time reviewing the origins of the
radioactivity that was released into the environment outside the
plant.

Small amounts were in the water sloshed out of the spent fuel
storage pool and managed to get into a drain system that exited
the plant.

The iodine-131 that was detected was trace amounts that resulted
from the normal operations of the plant and did not indicate the
fuel was damaged.

The chromium-51 and colbalt-60 were activation products found in
the crud and unrelated to the fuel.

The TEPCO officials were pleased that the plant as a whole had
withstood a quake that exceeded its general design limits and
that the SCRAM system had operated effectively. They could not
provide the specific design basis for the fuel or fuel assemblies,
however. One-third of the fuel rods are exchanged approximately
every 13 months, thus the oldest set had been operating some
three years. (ECON: Josh Handler)


TOKYO 00003922 008 OF 011


20. (SBU) Earthquake's Reverberations Affect Power Supply to
Industry
--------------------------------------------- -----

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) invoked power supply reduction
agreements with large-lot customers for the first time in 17
years because of heavy electrical demand during a heat-wave while
its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture
remains out of action due to the July earthquake, according to
TEPCO's website and Japanese press reports.

Showa Denko, a supplier of petrochemicals and aluminum products,
and Tokyo Steel cut power consumption; overall a total of 23
sites reduced electrical use by 120,000 kw, although TEPCO was
seeking reductions as high as 150,000-200,000 kw.

Other TEPCO clients with different agreements have not been
affected yet. Nissan Motor, however, could face up to a 40
percent cut in power, which could impact engine production,
according to a Nissan official quoted in the press. Other
industry and commercial groups are taking proactive steps to
reduce energy consumption.

According to TEPCO, power usage on Thursday peaked at 61.47
million kw, up 2.2% from Wednesday and the highest yet this
summer. (ECON: Josh Handler)

21. (U) Showa Shell to Build One of World's Largest Solar Cell
Plants in Miyazaki
--------------------------------------------- -----

To meet the growing global demand for residential solar cells,
Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., the Japanese unit of Royal Dutch Shell
PLC, announced on August 15 that it plans to build its second
solar cell plant in Miyazaki prefecture by June 2009. Once
completed, the $130 million plant, capable of generating 60
megawatts (mw) annually, will be one of the world's largest next-
generation thin-film solar cell plants. The firm's pilot plant,
also in Miyazaki, with a capacity of 20 mw began commercial
production in July.

While Kyushu currently accounts for only one percent of Japan's
total solar cell production capacity, the Development Bank of
Japan projects that share to expand to 10 percent of the nation's
total by the end of JFY 09.

Other solar cell production in Kyushu includes Fuji Electric
Systems in Kumamoto since 2006, Honda Motor, which will begin
mass production of thin-film cells in Kumamoto this October, as
well as Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, which is stepping up its
investment in its Isahaya plant in Nagasaki. (Fukuoka: Yuko
Nagatomo/Jim Crow)

22. (U) Inpex to Build LNG Terminal in Niigata
--------------------------------------------- -----

On August 9 Inpex announced it had started negotiations with
Niigata prefecture and Joetsu city to construct a liquid natural
gas (LNG) import terminal at Naoetsu Port in Joetsu city.

The terminal will consist of two 180,000 kl storage tanks and
should start operations at the end of 2013. Inpex owns pipelines
running from Naoetsu to seven nearby prefectures as well as Tokyo.


The imported LNG would go to city gas companies and manufacturers
in those areas. The terminal would initially handle 500,000 to
700,000 tons of LNG per year with volume gradually increasing
based on the demand. (The media speculates that it could handle
up to 2 million tons a year, or roughly three percent, of Japan's
current LNG imports.)

Inpex's initial investment would not exceed 100 billion yen.
Inpex is currently involved in natural gas projects in
northwestern Australia and Indonesia, some of which would be
shipped to the new terminal. Inpex would thus become the first
Japanese company to handle LNG from field development to domestic
sales. (ECON: Eriko Marks)

---------------------------
PRODUCT SAFETY AND SECURITY
---------------------------

TOKYO 00003922 009 OF 011

23. (U) GOJ Scrutinizes Product Safety
--------------------------------------------- -----

Recent discoveries regarding unsafe imports from China prompted
the Japanese to launch an interagency committee, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs officials told us in an August 20 meeting.
Domestically generated product safety scandals also focused
public and government attention on the issue, Ministry of Economy,
Trade and Industry (METI) officials told us in an Aug. 21 meeting.


The division of labor on product safety issues is complicated,
METI officials indicated. METI has jurisdiction over specific
manufactured items identified in Japanese law, but food safety
oversight is divided between the health and agricultural
ministries. Numerous regulations divide product oversight
responsibilities. For example if a toy has a mechanical defect,
METI would be responsible, but the presence of lead in the paint
on the toy would fall under the health ministry's purview.

In addition to the ministries' oversight, the National Institute
of Technology and Evaluation (NITE), a government-owned non-
profit corporation, investigates and tests products to determine
if they are safe. However, according to NITE's own website, the
most assertive institution is the media which accounted for 64.9
percent of all consumer product defect reports in 2005. See
Tokyo 3879 for more information. (ECON: Charlie Crouch)

24. (U) New Rules for Japanese Internet Service Providers to
Fight Viruses
--------------------------------------------- -----

The Communications Ministry, according to a Nikkei report, will
revise rules governing Internet service providers (ISPs) in order
to allow them to block temporarily computers infected with
viruses from accessing the Internet. New guidelines were sent to
ISPs last week, which are expected to review their own procedures
and gradually adopt new measures.

The guidelines outline circumstances under which ISPs can cut off
users, and will allow disconnection of computers that have
launched cyber-attacks through telecommunications networks, as
well as infected personal computers that pose a risk to others.
To date, Internet companies have followed their own policies and
practices, but technically such measures have violated Japanese
laws on telecommunications and privacy. The new guidelines are
therefore aimed at protecting public interest and rationalizing
rules governing ISPs.

According to Japan's Information-Technology Promotion Agency,
44,800 reported virus infections in 2006 was double the rate from
five years earlier. Even the Bank of Japan's Web site was
infected and inaccessible to the public for a short time last
December. (ECON: Scott Smith/Kaoru Nakata)

------------------------------
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
------------------------------

25. (SBU) Japan Views Asia -- PM's Asia Gateway Report Online
--------------------------------------------- -----

"The 21st century is the century of Asia," is the bold opening of
PM Abe's Asia Gateway Strategy Council's May 16 "Asia Gateway
Initiative" report, an English-language translation of which is
now online.

Now disbanded, the Council's report was incorporated into the
Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy's annual economic policy
recommendations. Led by Special Advisor to the Prime Minister
for Economic and Fiscal Policy Takumi Nemoto and comprised of
several prominent industry leaders and academics, the Council's
report, nonetheless, is notable as an example of the current
Japanese political leadership's thinking about Japan's political,
economic and cultural relationship with the growing economies of
Asia.

Parts of the reports recommendations on aviation reform have been
covered in the Scope and in Tokyo 2180, but aviation plus the
big-picture introduction and the sections on trade, financial
markets, agriculture, culture, Japan's image abroad, tourism and

TOKYO 00003922 010 OF 011


foreign study are worth a glance. (ECON: Josh Handler)

26. (SBU) Yokohama Port and Japanese Megaterminal Policy: Minor
Reforms with a lot of Business as Usual
--------------------------------------------- -----

Japan is creating megaterminals in three port areas to boost the
competitiveness of its major ports and attract super-sized 8,000-
plus TEU container vessels. PM Abe also has called for 24/7 port
operations as part of his Asia Gateway Initiative to increase
port competitiveness.

In July, we visited Japan's first megaterminal, the Honmoku BC
Container terminal in Yokohama. The amount of containers handled
by the port has increased by 10 percent a year, but this may be
due to Japan's export-led growth rather than any cost reductions
at the megaterminal.

Prices for services and the number of stevedoring and port
services companies seemingly have not changed, and employment
levels remain about the same. The terminal cannot implement 24-
hour operations until trucking companies are willing to do the
same.

Port officials were unaware of USG/DOE's MegaPorts Initiative for
radiation monitoring of U.S.-bound containers. Based on our
observations, the megaterminal policy has had a marginal impact
on heightening the competitiveness of the port. More USG
outreach to port officials and through them to port operating
companies could be useful for implementing a requirement to
screen all U.S.-bound containers for radiation sources. For more
see Tokyo 03910. (ECON: Josh Handler)

27. (SBU) Michigan's Gentex Dominates Unique and Growing Auto
Parts Sector
--------------------------------------------- -----

Gentex Corporation, of Zeeland, Michigan, which controls 80
percent of the global market for auto-dimming automobile mirrors,
has had similar success in the Japanese market. Gentex has
captured about 95 percent of Japanese automakers' OEM business in
their sector, and Toyota is one of their most profitable accounts
globally.

Nagoya PO met on August 21 with Gentex Japan President Kazuhiko
Nishijima, who said Gentex's annual Japanese sales have expanded
to $160 million from $8 million since opening its first Japanese
office in Nagoya 10 years ago. Most of Gentex's sales in Japan
are for autos bound for export. Currently, only about 2 percent
of Japan's cars have auto-dimming mirrors, compared with one-
third new cars in the U.S.

Nishijima said Gentex is the first American company to win
Toyota's Quality Excellence Award, largely due to its low level
of defects at well under 10 parts per million for its products,
which are made in Michigan. (Toyota keeps about three months'
inventory on hand in Japan.)

The low defect rate is despite the mirror's surprising complexity.

Each of Gentex's electrochromic mirrors is controlled by an
internal microcomputer system and many contain other components
such as interior lighting, headlamp controls, tire pressure
monitors, rear camera display, and hands-free microphone.

This relatively obscure parts sector is experiencing strong
revenue growth, and mirrors will continue to gain added
functionality since, as described by Nishijima, they are located
at eye level, highest value real estate in an auto's cabin.
(Nagoya: Tamiki Mizuno)

28. (U) Toyota's "Sustainability Report 2007"
--------------------------------------------- -----
On August 8, Toyota released its "Sustainability Report 2007: A
New Future for People, Society and the Planet" that covers
Toyota's initiatives on energy and global warming, and reduction
of CO2 emissions as well as social and economic questions.
(ECON: Junko Nagahama)

--------
SPORTING
--------

TOKYO 00003922 011 OF 011

29. (U) Matsuzaka Victimized Again
--------------------------------------------- -----

These are frustrating times for Boston's star Japanese import
Daisuke Matsuzaka. The right-handed starter for the Red Sox is
pitching well but his team is not giving him any run support.
His most recent loss came in Tampa Bay on August 22 (August 23 in
Japan) when he surrendered a two-run home run to Justin Upton and
the Major League's best team -- that is, the Red Sox -- lost 2-1 to

the lowly Devil Rays.

Matsuzaka's record slipped to 13-10.

Combined with the Yankees 8-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels,
the Red Sox lead over the forces of darkness -- that is, the
Yankees -- has slipped to only five games.

On a related subject, Kei Igawa, the Yankees $46 million pick up
last winter, continues to turn in average numbers for the
Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees of the International League.
He is 4-4 overall with an earned run average of 3.62 after two
demotions this season from the big club. (Econ: Nicholas Hill)

30. (U) "Gaman-tsuyoi" Prize Goes to Motorcyclist
--------------------------------------------- -----

Beating out Naha Consul General Kevin "Night" Maher, who had
been nominated for continuing to serve after being flayed by the
Okinawa press, 54-year-old Kazuo Nagata, who continued to drive a
large motorcycle about two kilometers after hitting the center
divider on a national highway and losing his right leg below the
knee, has won Japan's "Gaman-tsuyoi" award.
Nagata, a salaried worker, was apparently unaware of the loss of
his leg despite the acute pain he experienced from the impact,
police reported.
Nagata, who was on his way to Gifu Prefecture with a group of
about 10 friends, did not fall in the accident and continued the
ride before noticing part of his leg was missing. (POL: Michael
Meserve)

31. (U) This SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED e-newsletter from U.S.
Embassy Tokyo's Economic Section, with contributions from the
consulates, is for internal USG use only. Please do not forward
in whole or in part outside of the government. The Scope is
edited this week by Charlie Crouch (CrouchCA@state.gov) and Joy
Progar (ProgarJ@state.gov).

32. (U) Please visit the Tokyo Econ Intranet webpage for back
issues of the Scope. Apologies, this option is only available to
State users. Please contact Joy Progar if you are from a different

agency and are interested in a back issue.
DONOVAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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