The Fairness Debate in U.S.-Japan Economic Relations

by Roger W. Benjamin, Loren Yager, Michael Shires, Mark A. Peterson


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This report uses comparative material collected in Japan and the United States to assess the extent of fairness grievances, the relationship of these concerns to economic factors, and the ways in which the concerns are being addressed. The report also summarizes the main Japanese and American fairness concerns and arguments. The authors draw on four sources of information: a content analysis of major newspapers in Japan and the United States, litigation involving Japanese and American corporations, histories of disputes, and evidence on the most prevalent arguments of both sides. The newspaper content and litigation analyses indicate that unfairness grievances increased substantially throughout the 1980s. The U.S. bilateral trade deficit with Japan appears to be a necessary but not sufficient explanation of U.S. fairness grievances. Other factors — such as a trend toward disputes in high-technology industries and issues relating to foreign investment — appear to be increasing in importance. U.S. fairness grievances tend to be expressed as specific claims about economic matters, whereas Japanese fairness grievances emphasize American interference in their domestic politics and economy.

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