Kamei Calls for Calm U.S., European Response to Expansion of Japan Post

The U.S. should take a “calm” approach to Japanese plans that will allow state-owned postal companies to expand their businesses, Postal Reform Minister Shizuka Kamei said.

Michael Punke, the U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization, and John Clarke, the EU’s charge d’affaires, will meet in Geneva today with their Japanese counterpart to express concerns that an overhaul of Japan Post Holdings Co. may hinder competition, the U.S. and EU said yesterday.

“It would be best for the U.S. to show restraint in this matter,” Kamei said at a press briefing in Tokyo today. It is “abnormal” to raise the issue at the WTO while legislation is still being considered by the Japanese parliament, Kamei said.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said on April 7 that Japan’s postal companies may get an unfair advantage over U.S. lenders, insurers and express-delivery companies. Japan’s government sent its postal reform bill to parliament on April 30. Japanese banks have also criticized the legislation.

The proposed changes will allow Japan Post Bank Co., already the world’s biggest bank by deposits, to double the amount of savings it takes from individual customers, and may pave the way for it to expand into lending.

Japan plans to keep at least a one-third stake in Japan Post Holdings after the changes.

Shinichi Kitajima, Japan’s ambassador to the WTO, will meet with U.S. and EU counterparts to discuss Japan Post reforms in Geneva, an official at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said today. Proposed reforms to Japan’s postal system will be carried out with due regard to maintaining fair competition and upholding international commitments, the official said.

The U.S.’s decision to raise Japan postal reforms at the WTO “is not a positive development for U.S.-Japan relations,” said Kamei, who has not discussed the matter with Japan’s foreign ministry.

To contact the reporter on this story: Finbarr Flynn in Tokyo at fflynn3@bloomberg.net

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