POLICY BRIEF 10-17

Turning Back the Clock: Japan’s Misguided Postal Law is Back on the Table

by Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Peterson Institute for International Economics
and Julia Muir, Peterson Institute for International Economics

June 2010
Revised October 2010

 

Gary Clyde Hufbauer

On May 31, 2010, a majority of the Lower House of the National Diet of Japan approved legislation that would reverse a decade's worth of effort to fully privatize key subsidiaries of Japan Post Holdings Co. Ltd. Besides postal services, the state-run postal system offers banking and insurance services, through Japan Post Bank (JPB) and Japan Post Insurance (JPI), respectively. These are the financial engines of Japan Post and were the units slated for privatization. Both subsidiaries have long received favorable government treatment, tilting the playing field against private banks and insurance firms, whether foreign or domestic. The government of Japan is in clear violation of its commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO), and if the Upper House approves the legislation, Japan will reverse the efforts made by the United States and the European Union, as well as domestic private banks and insurance firms, to establish a level playing field. What's more, Japan risks having a formal WTO dispute brought against it.

 

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