Country Listing

Japan Table of Contents


Consumer Electronics

The industries producing consumer electronics--audio receivers, compact disc players, other audio components, tape recorders, television receivers, video cassette recorders, and video cameras-- were major exporters, and in the 1980s they invested overseas as well. In 1991, 46.7 percent of color televisions produced in Japan were exported, as were 87.3 percent of video cassette recorders. Some of these products had too small an export share to show up separately in summary trade data, but audio tape recorders represented 2.9 percent of total Japanese exports in 1988, video cassette recorders 2.3 percent, radio receivers 0.8 percent, and television receivers 0.7 percent, for a total of 6.7 percent.

All of these industries built on Japan's success in developing commercial applications for the transistor in the 1950s and the succeeding generations of semiconductor devices of the 1970s and 1980s. Most of this output came from large integrated electronics firms, which manufactured semiconductor devices, consumer electronics, and computers. Their international success came from continually pushing miniaturization and driving down manufacturing costs through innovations in the manufacturing process.

Mainly because of Japanese industry's success, the United States consumer electronics industry withered. During the 1970s, Japanese inroads in the United States market for color television receivers sparked charges of dumping and other predatory practices. These disputes led to Orderly Marketing Arrangements (voluntary export restraints) by Japan in 1977, which limited exports of color televisions to 1.75 million units annually between 1977 and 1980. While this agreement afforded some protection to the United States domestic industry, Japanese firms responded by investing in the United States. By the end of the 1980s, only one United Statesowned television manufacturer remained; the others had disappeared or had been bought by West European or Japanese firms.

Other products for the consumer electronics market did not become as controversial as color televisions, partly because Japan had pioneered the products. Video cassette recorders, video cameras, and compact disc players were all developed for the consumer market by Japanese firms, and no United States-owned firms were involved in their manufacture in the 1980s.

Japanese overseas investment in the consumer electronics industry was motivated by protectionism and labor costs. Protectionism was the main motivation for Japanese firms to establish color television plants in the United States. By 1980, after the three years of voluntary export restraints, seven Japanese firms had located plants in the United States. In addition, Japanese firms retained production of the most technologically advanced products at home, while shifting production of less advanced products to developing countries such as Taiwan. For these reasons, Japanese export of color televisions fell during the 1980s, from 2 percent of total exports in 1970 to only 0.7 percent in 1988.

Data as of January 1994