Country Listing

Japan Table of Contents


International Trade and Development Institutions

Japan is a member of the United Nations (UN), the IMF, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD--see Glossary), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT-- see Glossary). It also participates in the international organizations focusing on economic development, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

As a member of the IMF and World Bank, for example, Japan played a role in the effort during the 1980s to address the international debt crisis brought on by the inability of certain developing countries to service their foreign debts as raw material prices fell and their economies stagnated. As a member of the IMF, Japan also cooperates with other countries in moderating the shortrun volatility of the yen and participates in discussions on strengthening the international monetary system.

Japan's membership in the OECD has constrained its foreign economic policy to some extent. When Japan joined the OECD in 1966, it was obliged to agree to OECD principles on capital liberalization, an obligation that led Japan to begin the process of liberalizing its many tight controls on investment flows into and out of Japan. Japan is also a participant in the OECD's "gentlemen's agreement" on guidelines for government-supported export credits, which places a floor on interest rates and other terms for loans to developing countries from government-sponsored export-import banks.

GATT has provided the basic structure through which Japan has negotiated detailed international agreements on import and export policies. Although Japan had been a member of GATT since 1955, it retained reservations to some GATT articles, permitting it to keep in place stiff quota restrictions until the early 1960s. Japan took its GATT obligations seriously, however, and a number of American disputes with Japan over its import barriers were successfully resolved by obtaining GATT rulings, with which Japan complied. Japan also negotiated bilaterally with countries on economic matters of mutual interest.

The international organization with the strongest Japanese presence has been the Asian Development Bank, the multilateral lending agency established in 1966 that made soft loans to developing Asian countries. Japan and the United States have had the largest voting rights in the Asian Development Bank, and Japan has traditionally filled the presidency.

As Japan became a greater international financial power in the 1980s, its role in financing these trade and development institutions grew. Previously, the government had been a quiet participant in these organizations, but as its financial role increased, pressure to expand voting rights and play a more active policy role mounted. By the early 1990s, Japan's influence and voting rights in the World Bank and IMF had increased.

Data as of January 1994