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4 - Japanese Antitrust since 1945

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2010

Tony A. Freyer
Affiliation:
University of Alabama
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Summary

Japanese antitrust achieved growing significance by the millennium. Prior to 1945, antitrust policy reflected alien images of market competition. Some Japanese authorities nonetheless understood that antitrust's underlying values of economic democracy resonated with their opposition to the wartime control system and the zaibatsu's dominance. During the occupation, the same sort of indigenous resistance contributed to shaping key provisions of the Antimonopoly Law of 1947 and its subsequent enforcement until Japan regained full sovereignty in 1952. As the postwar era unfolded, the Japanese continually contested the process of accommodating antitrust policy and institutions. The few antitrust defenders struggled to preserve competition values against the industrial policy discourse government and big business leaders employed to justify “high speed” growth. Even so, antitrust officials defended small business and influenced the restructuring of Japan's corporate order into the unusual keiretsu system which attained global trade leadership by the 1980s. But this international success soon dissolved amidst profound economic and political dislocation and foreign criticism; for the first time, Japanese business and government leaders promoted deregulation and antitrust. Possessing official legitimacy, Japan's antitrust regime tested the limits and meaning of this reversal in the public stance toward competition policy.

Some Japanese and American commentators have noted that despite the preeminent influence of Japanese bureaucrats' industrial policy it always evolved in relation to competition policy. This chapter reexamines that interaction from the perspective of the antitrust regime itself and the extent to which its institutional culture has facilitated accommodating competition values to Japanese society.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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