The Japanese Government's Initiative for Standards and Certifications in the 1980s-2000s: Economic growth as a policy goal and improvement of product value

Author Name KAWAMURA Satoshi (Research Associate, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. May 2016 16-J-045
Research Project Historical Study on Japan's Trade and Industrial Policy: From an international perspective
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This paper considers the Japanese government's initiative for standards and certifications from a historical perspective to explore the significance of how and why it came to be seen as an important component of the nation's economic growth policy in the latter half of the 1990s. Back then, a slowdown in growth was beginning to become a norm of the Japanese economy and how to achieve economic growth emerged as a critical policy issue. Faced with this situation, the Japanese government had to grope for ways to ignite growth, while continuing to pursue deregulation to minimize government involvement, an established course of practice since the 1980s. It sought to achieve this end by strengthening market functions and enhancing business-to-business competition. At the same time, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) was required to support innovative business activities. Having shifted away from its conventional industrial policy, the MITI was trying--through trial and error--to find ways to support the development of business strategies by utilizing standards as a policy tool, recognizing that the standardization of competitive products can further enhance their value, a practice that had been in place for some time in other advanced economies. It is perceived that standards and certifications were focused on as a means to promote economic growth at a time when there was little leeway for government intervention. However, the government's initiative to promote standardization at an international level is still ongoing. Meanwhile, it has been found that the social significance of such standardization efforts will likely increase in the areas of welfare and environmental protection.