Spencer, Edson W.
September 1983
Foreign Affairs;Fall1983, Vol. 62 Issue 1, p123
This article focuses on Japan and to some extent on the electronics industries as typical of the high technology areas in the U.S. where competition with Japanese firms is most intense, as of September 1983. The strength of the Japanese economy, and in particular its electronics industries, is a product of Japanese government policy which has created a consistently favorable climate for Japanese business and taken special measures to help the Japanese electronics industries. Each of these areas needs a careful look. A number of factors are at work which may reduce Japanese competitive strength in international markets. Of immediate importance is a possible strengthening of the yen. The expected large current-account surplus of Japan will push exchange rates in that direction this year. A further narrowing of interest rate differentials between the U.S. and Japan would help even more. In the meantime, experiments with joint intervention in the exchange market by the Japanese Ministry of Finance and the U.S. Treasury are a welcome development. The U.S. is still the largest and most productive economy in the world. It has enormous resources in people, natural resources and accumulated capital. It has encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit as evidenced by the many new firms springing up, especially in the field of high technology. A very large part of the technology which Japan uses today was first developed in the U.S. Japan has become an obsession for the U.S., attracting and repelling. It is neither the perfect model of the future nor the perfect villain of the present. To cast Japan as a principal cause of the domestic and international trading problems of the U.S. is to do the people of the U.S. and Japan a profound disservice.


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