Guest blog: “Learning from Toyota’s Troubles — Where’s the Board?”

Do Toyota’s woes indicate, as some have argued, the last nail in the coffin of the mass production based export model that had served the Japanese economy so well at least through to the 1980s? In other words, does Japan need to wind down even high-tech goods manufacturing and further expand its services sector? Are consumer product safety expectations both within Japan and abroad just too demanding nowadays? Or is Toyota similar to Mitsubishi Motors, an aberrant company which for years conducted clandestine recalls – taking consumers and regulators for a ride – until an employee blew the whistle in 2000 … almost destroying the Mitsubishi brand name? And does the Toyota saga suggest that Japan’s gradual transformation in corporate governance is, well, TOO gradual?
For one view on that last point, and to encourage public comments on any of these questions or others that have been raised by Toyota’s saga, I am pleased to reproduce (with permission) the following posting by an American ANJeL member on JURIST, the University of Pittsburgh’s blog:
JURIST Guest Columnist Professor Bruce Aronson of Creighton University School of Law says that Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota’s current safety crisis – now the subject of Congressional hearings – should prompt the company to address its seriously flawed system of governance more than just its public image….

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Australia and Japan: A New Economic [and Legal!] Partnership in Asia

Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale recently presented in Sydney a preview of his now-published consultancy report for Austrade, which urges (p3):
“a paradigm shift in thinking about Australia’s relationship with the Japanese economy. The Japanese market is no longer confined to Japan itself. It is a huge international market generated by the activities of Japanese business and investors, especially via production networks in Asia. It is a market enhanced by the economic cooperation programs of the Japanese government throughout the developing world, particularly in the Asian and Pacific region. And it is a market in which Japanese business now plays an increasingly important role from an Australian base in manufacturing, agriculture and services.”
The Australian Financial Review now confirms that Japan has led China and other Asian investors into Australia over the last year (“What Crisis? Asian Investors rush to our shores”, 24 September 2009). But many probably remain unaware of these facts highlighted by Drysdale’s report (pp 3-4):
“The stock of Japanese investment in Asia amounted to A$ 180 billion out of Japan’s global investment of A$ 772 billion at end-2008. The flow of export and import trade which Japanese business generates in Asia each year was US$ 690 billion in 2008. Procurements through Japanese corporate subsidiaries in Asia amount to A$ 1.2 trillion annually. In addition, Japan spent A$ 11 billion (901 billion yen) in Asia on Overseas Development Assistance programs and procurement through economic cooperation programs. Japanese business has now also established a platform for export to the region from Australia, with diversified investments across food, manufacturing as well as resources, that already delivers A$ 6 billion in Australian sales to Asian markets other than Japan. These are all large new elements in the economic relationship with Japan beyond the A$ 51 billion export trade and A$ 20 billion import trade that Australia already does each year with Japan itself.”
These pervasive economic ties are underpinned by very wide-ranging and stable relations between Australia and Japan at all sorts of levels: governmental, judicial, educational, working holidays, and so on. As pointed out in another recent report “Australia and Japan: Beyond the Mainstream”, by Manuel Panagiotopolous and Andrew Cornell for the Australia Japan Foundation, the GFC has led policy-makers as well as businesspeople to look again more favourably on relationships that combine lower risk with less return, compared to high risk/return ventures.
We can take advantage of these strong and still very profitable Australia-Japan bilateral relationships, as well as the investment and trading links each country (especially Japan) has developed in other parts of Asia particularly since the 1990s, by more actively joining Australian and Japanese partners for ventures throughout Asia. This spreads the risks typically associated with the possibility of higher returns, and also allows each partner to contribute goods or services in which that country has more of a comparative advantage. Thus, for example, Drysdale suggests (p25):
“partnership with Australian services firms in finance, legal services and engineering could be mutual productive. … In FTA talks with Japan the Rudd Government is trying to open the way for professional and financial services firms to set up in Japan, encouraging wider recognition of qualifications and the removal of barriers to obtaining licences in Japan”.
As an example of “legal and consultancy services”, Drysdale mentions that several Australian law firms have long experience in the Asian region, and gives the example of Mallesons Japan. But he concludes that “if we are serious about joining global supply chains and capturing service industry opportunities in Asia then Australian firms need to be there on the ground to capture the business”.

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Taniguchi Talk – Does the WTO Really Settle International Trade Disputes?

Professor Yasuhei Taniguchi presented a public lecture on this topic on 30 July at Sydney Law School, as part of the 2009 Distinguished Speakers series commemorating the inauguration of its new building in February. Drawing on his experience as a world-renowned civil law professor, arbitrator and WTO adjudicator, Taniguchi-sensei focused mainly on points of similarity and difference between the WTO dispute resolution system and national courts. His conclusion was a qualified “yes”, despite the main challenges still afflicting trade law litigation among states through the WTO system – the topic of a one-day symposium on 14 August, also at Sydney Law School.

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China, national security, and investment treaties

Peter Drysdale’s weekly editorial for the East Asia Forum, along with related postings to that blog and enormous media attention in Australia and elsewhere, focuses ‘on the continuing detention of Rio Tinto executive, Stern Hu, in Shanghai on allegations of espionage’. Drysdale signposts some future analysis of ‘the legal framework under which Hu’s detention has taken place’. He also emphasises that we need ‘a cooperative framework—bilaterally, regionally and globally‘ for ‘China’s authorities to avoid damage to the reliability of markets and for Australia to avoid the perception of investment protectionism’. The most pressing legal (and diplomatic) issues concern China’s criminal justice system, especially when ‘national security’ is allegedly involved. But we need already to consider some broader ramifications, including how we think about FDI legislation and (increasingly intertwined) investment treaty protections.
In short, most agree that the Chinese government got annoyed when Australia itself invoked national security interests to restrict Minmetals bid for OZ Minerals back in March 2009. Then it got really annoyed when Chinalco’s bid for Rio Tinto fell through, even though the Australian government wasn’t directly involved. And so, one story goes, Stern Hu has been arrested to send a message – in the hope that Australia (and other potential host states) will be think twice before invoking national security exceptions to restrict future FDI from China. The China-watchers are better placed to decide whether this is really the motivation behind his arrest. My point here is rather that we should not be surprised that host states may be increasingly tempted to invoke exceptions to limit FDI at the outset, which in turn generates risks of (over-)reactions by home states, as we may be witnessing in Hu’s case. And the initial temptation may arise due to proliferating investor-state arbitration provisions in investment treaties, because those later restrict their room to invoke national security or other limits once the FDI has been approved.

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Arb-Med and New International Commercial Mediation Rules in Japan

A recent issue of the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association (JCAA) Newsletter is largely devoted to these topics (No 22, July 2009). Sydney Law School and ANJeL are privileged to host not only one of Japan’s doyens in ICA (and other cross-border dispute resolution, especially WTO procedures), Professor Yasuhei Taniguchi (over July-August 2009). We also welcome (over September – March 2010) Kokushikan University Professor Tatsuya Nakamura, a leader of Japan’s ‘new generation’ of arbitration specialists who heads JCAA’s Arbitration Department.
They have already got me Download filethinking further about Arb-Med (arbitrators encouraging parties to settle their dispute), in the context also of interesting new JCAA Rules focused more specifically on Mediation. Both developments are important for Australia, presently reviewing its legislative and institutional framework for international commercial arbitration (ICA), as well as for many other Asia-Pacific countries intensely interested nowadays in efficient mechanisms to resolve cross-border disputes.

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International Investment and Commercial Arbitration in Australia and Japan: Shared Challenges, Different Solutions?

Australia and Japan face a remarkably similar challenge. Few international arbitrations have their seat in either country, despite various initiatives undertaken over the last decade or two. Both Australia and Japan probably need to adapt quite radical measures to overcome remaining barriers to attracting international arbitration activity to their respective shores. This shared problem is serious not just because their arbitrators, lawyers, institutions or local economies miss out on business – after all, at least the arbitrators and lawyers can still earn fees by deploying their skills in arbitrations further abroad. The problem is serious also because low levels of international arbitration activity in both countries limit the potential to develop domestic arbitration, ADR more generally, and indeed effective civil procedure.
Despite the shared challenge, however, quite radical solutions for each country may differ somewhat. Expedited arbitration procedures may be a particular selling point for Australia, but not Japan. Caucusing in Arb-Med may work in Japan, but not Australia. And Japan may have more scope than Australia to develop international arbitration through a ‘whole-of-government’ approach that promotes investment arbitration provisions, for example, even in treaties with other developed countries.

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Australia’s Less Lethargic Law Reform? International Arbitration in the Asia-Pacific

[This blog posting follows on from my East Asia Forum posting criticising “Australia’s Lethargic Law Reform” in consumer law recently. I am somewhat more optimistic about initiatives in arbitration law reform, but Australia shares some similar problems with Japan. Japan also took its time to enact new legislation, in 2003, but hasn’t seen significant increases in disputes referred to arbitration.]
On 21 November 2008, the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) announced a Review of Australia’s International Arbitration Act 1974 (IAA). The aim was to consider whether the Act should be amended to:
* ensure it provides a comprehensive and clear framework governing international arbitration in Australia
* improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the arbitral process while respecting the fundamental consensual basis of arbitration, and
* consider whether to adopt ‘best-practice’ developments in national arbitral law from overseas.
The AGD’s Discussion Paper (DP) expressed the hope that a revised IAA would make Australia a more attractive venue for conducting international commercial arbitration (ICA), especially within the Asia-Pacific region. Unfortunately, Australia has missed that boat, with China, Hong Kong and Singapore the clear leaders now in this part of the world.
For Australia to have any chance at all, it needs a much more ambitious reform than envisaged in the AGD’s DP. Anyway, Australia needs to appreciate the more diffuse and long-term benefits of this type of reform.

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