SECOND TO NONE: American Companies in Japan by Robert C. Christopher

SECOND TO NONE: American Companies in Japan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An eye-opening report on the surprisingly large numbers of US multinationals that are operating successfully--either on their own or with local partners--in Japan. Christopher (The Mind of Japan) pursues several objectives in his text, not the least of which is to set the record straight on the extent of Corporate America's participation in Japan's supposedly closed economy. By almost any measure, it's sizable. In 1984, to illustrate, direct exports of US merchandise to Japan exceeded $27 billion. At last count, moreover, roughly 1,000 firms in Japan were wholly or substantially owned by US interests, and 122 reported taxable income of $1 million or more for calendar 1984. The ranks of the expatriates include Avon, Coca-Cola, Disney, Exxon, GE, Honeywell, IBM, McDonald's,' Quaker Oats, and Uniroyal. The author, whose first contact with Japan was as a member of the post-WW II Occupation forces, contends that American companies can make their way in greater numbers there. Conceding the existence of obstacles, he marshals statistical data and anecdotal evidence to illustrate the potential of committed commercial involvement. The Japanese are tough but loyal customers, he shows, and foreign suppliers able to meet their exacting standards can prosper without the need to engage in price rivalry. Those who complain loudest about entry barriers, he suggests, either don't have what it takes to compete in Japan or have failed to explore the situation and make the requisite long-term moves. Lastly, he states the case for resisting the temptation to see the widening export/import gap ""as a primary cause of our international economic difficulties rather than the most conspicuous symptom of them."" Without denying that Japanese consumer and industrial markets are well guarded, he does soft-pedal the entry problems. Nor does he dwell on the decidedly easier access to the US enjoyed by Japanese enterprises. He's right in cautioning that protectionism is like drug abuse: ""as time goes on, larger and larger doses are required to achieve the desired effect."" In sum, a largely convincing contrarian challenge to conventional wisdom on the current imbalance of US/Japanese trade.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1986
Publisher: Crown