Tuesday, May 11, 1999

Pushing deregulation
of Japanese economy

Bullet The issue: The Japanese economy is languishing in recession.
Bullet Our view: The United States should continue to support restructuring.

AFTER the meeting last week between President Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, the two leaders announced agreement on deregulating a number of Japanese industries, including telecommunications and medical equipment. For example, foreign companies will now be able to own 100 percent of cable television operations in Japan. At a news conference, the president praised Obuchi while urging him to "use all available tools to restore solid growth."

The Tokyo-Washington relationship remains a vital one, particularly in view of the deterioration of relations with Beijing. The accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade has brought that relationship to a crisis point.

On his visit to the United States, Obuchi told his hosts in several cities that Japan is changing, making its economy more responsive to market forces. The nation realizes, he said, that failure of this effort would mean "Japan is doomed to economic and technological decline."

Seven years of recession have had a sobering effect, forcing reluctant Japanese policymakers to embrace economic deregulation and restructuring. But progress has been slow as bureaucrats resist relinquishing their power to call the economic shots.

On the U.S. side, pressure from the Clinton administration to open the Japanese market has waned. An administration official spoke of "Japan fatigue" resulting from the lack of concrete benefits from past efforts. The long recession in Japan -- and the absence of prospects for early improvement -- have cooled the enthusiasm of American business for operating there.

In fact, the main concern in Washington these days is not opening channels for exporting to and investing in Japan but protection against Japanese imports -- particularly low-cost steel. Clinton warned Obuchi that he would begin a trade action against Tokyo if its steel shipments did not return to the levels existing before the Asian economic crisis began. The Commerce Department has already sought to penalize Japan and other countries for "dumping" steel at prices below production cost, but the president threatened stronger action.

Obuchi was the sixth Japanese prime minister Clinton has dealt with in six years. That is a reflection of the country's lack of strong leadership. Without effective leadership, change is difficult. Obuchi assumed the prime ministership with low expectations but has fared reasonably well. However, the steps taken thus far have yet to reverse the economy's tailspin.

Economic recovery in Japan is essential for prosperity in the rest of East Asia. The United States should continue to press, as diplomatically as possible, for deregulation, restructuring and measures to stimulate the economy, while trying to smooth over the inevitable conflicts between the two nations on lesser issues. The U.S.-Japan partnership is too important to be jeopardized by avoidable friction.


High school violence prompts overreaction

Bullet The issue: Some school officials are restricting students' freedom of expression in reaction to the Colorado high school shooting.
Bullet Our view: Proper counseling is a more effective -- and legal -- method of dealing with students who feel they are outcasts.

HIGH school students who have been subjects of derision from their classmates now face another threat: Since the Littleton, Colo., shooting, school administrators in some cases have been targeting outcasts as potential dispensers of violence and imposing inappropriate and even unconstitutional sanctions. Security concerns should not be an excuse for stripping citizens, including students, of their freedom of expression.

The Columbine High School shooting understandably prompted measures across the county to assure safety on school campuses. X-ray machines were installed at some schools, and teachers began scrutinizing the behavior of students.

Excesses in reaction to the shooting are not surprising. In Ohio, 11 students were suspended for their Internet website on the Gothic subculture. A 13-year-old Arizona boy who carried an electronics magazine with ads for guns was arrested after drawing a cartoon showing the school blowing up.

An Illinois student was questioned for more than an hour and a half about the video games he plays. A 14-year-old Pennsylvania girl was suspended for telling a teacher she could understand how someone who is endlessly teased could snap.

The Pennsylvania girl had it right. High schools can be torture chambers for students who are victimized by teasing and outright harassment.

Schools should do what they can to reduce insensitive behavior by students, but it is no more likely to change significantly than adolescence is of becoming obsolete. Teachers and school counselors would be better to advise such students that they can expect their lives to improve after graduation.

School teachers and administrators who unreasonably restrict the rights of students for safety purposes add fuel to a fire of resentment raging in the minds of young people who feel shunned by classmates.

Their actions will not make school safer.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin