Courage to Change Japanese-style Business in Crisis (1992)
"A Prosperous Co-existence with European Businesses"
He continued to emphasize how troubled he was by the situation and so I said, “I will make a proposal. Let’s establish a yearly meeting between the leaders of the European and Japanese electronics manufacturers. However, we won’t talk about pricing or market share, we’ll discuss technological needs ten years into the future. By sharing our common vision of the future, and each company pouring its efforts into development, we won’t be able to complain about the results.”
However, bringing the manufacturers together raised antitrust problems and necessitated witnessing by both governments, which led to a discourse between Étienne Viscount Davignon, the EC Vice-President, and Shintaro Abe (Minister of International Trade and Industry at the time) and the start of a Japan-EC Business Roundtable of household electronic appliance makers.
I headed the Japan side with Philips CEO, Wisse Dekker, heading the Europeans. The meeting took place every year and last year in October the 8th meeting took place in Japan. Various discussions were held regarding the future of the industry and the next meeting will take its turn in Europe.
During the first meeting, when the Japanese presented their ideas for ten years into the future, some comments were made after the meeting by the other side that this was a meeting about ‘household electronic appliances’, and yet we were discussing not household use technology, but industrial use technology.
We replied “The fact that you say that shows your problem. Japan’s electronics makers study what is called today’s industrial use technology because in ten years, that’s the technology that will be used in the household.”
Through the meetings understanding between Japan and Europe developed, but in response to the sentiments expressed above, we were left with some feelings of ambivalence.
However I felt that on my many visits to Europe with the Keidanren, I had the opportunity to interact with the business community and talk with European leaders, such as the EU President, Jacques Delors, and felt I had found a chance to address some of these doubts.
I talked with Jacques, country leaders and businessmen and continually emphasized that Japanese industries wanted to coexist in prosperity with European industries but felt that Japan’s highly competitive car, electronics and other industries were still considered a threat. I think that gaining sufficient understanding is the biggest challenge for Japanese industries today. What needs to be done? I’ll share my thoughts on the issue.
(Continued in Volume 6)
( Extract from"Nijuisseki e" (Towards the 21st Century), published by WAC)