Saturday, January 10, 2009

When Japan buys global investment banks...

With the financial crisis in every eye, Japan spreads its financial power around the world. Difficult to evaluate the future strength that Japan is to use for its global financial dominance, but under Shoichi Nakagawa, the Minister of Finance, "Tokyo lost its low profile held since the late 90's and enter into a centripetal motion which will change the archipelago more than it ever did under Junichiro Koizumi", one can hear in Nagatacho (Diet of Japan)

Who ever gets the next Prime Minister Chair...?

After the first analysis made in autumn, based on summaries presented since 2007 according to my own sources, Japan’s biggest financial firms are seeking to expand abroad after buying stakes last year in overseas banks and brokerages that were forced to raise capital after posting losses related to the collapse of the U.S. subprime-mortgage market. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., the largest Japanese bank, bought a $9 billion stake in Morgan Stanley. Mizuho Financial Group Inc., the second-biggest lender by revenue, invested $1.2 billion in Merrill Lynch & Co. last January.

How interesting this document in two part about how Mitsubishi UFJ Bank bailed out Morgan Stanley. It is on the Mainichi shimbun site. Bi lingual English and Japanese.
Worth reading the process of the negotiations.


On Oct. 13, 2008, an approximately 9-billion dollar investment deal by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group's (MUFG) in U.S. financial giant Morgan Stanley came into effect. But behind this arrangement -- which helped bolster a market nearing collapse from a once-in-a-century financial crisis -- was an unprecedented level of involvement of the Japanese and U.S. governments.

In the following the interaction of both corporations with both different corporation cultures... until the clash comes, critics say.

"The U.S. government, in cooperation with the Japanese government, worked furiously from the close of the G7 meeting on Oct. 10, 2008 to the morning of Oct. 13, in order to secure vast sums of investments from Japanese banks to shore up the global financial system. For some time previously, however, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) had already been pushing for increased foreign investment in the U.S. financial sector."

Click the title to read the series.

Friday, January 09, 2009

France branded as "No.1 tourism destination"

Mont Saint Michel under a golden sun. The Mount was edified in the 8th century, Normandie, France

Straight in my eyes, a Japanese academic, a friend of mine, tells me: "Jean-Yves Le Drian does not know his classics!" "Le Couesnon dans sa folie a mis le Mont en Normandie" (The Couesnon river in its frenzy put the Mount in Normandy) as shown in this image of the Tapestry of Bayeux:

The Tapestry of Bayeux by Queen Mathilde of England (11th Century), illustrating the Couesnon river

Nevertheless, my scholar's friend adds that the sympathetic president of the regional council of Brittany "takes his dreams for reality, the Mount Saint Michel will be an island, and not belong to neighboring Brittany" according to environmental work undertaken since 2005 to renew the site, impaired by alluvial land and sand accumulated for centuries, and re create the Mount as an Island by 2015.

This regional pride contest is an old story, as old as the Mount itself. Mount Saint Michel is a "temoignage" of the regional patterns and varieties of France. (Something Japanese understand pretty well regarding geographical competition and pride) This heritage of my country's history also is a symbol of impressive Christian architecture. Still Monsieur Le Driand words shared with a little group of French journalists Correspondents in Tokyo recently did not cause a big surprise for the people of Normandie. We all know The Mont is to become an island and a protected area. Protected for neighbors and tourists who flock to this impressive testimony of this legendary and strategical territory and "élégante silhouette" known by every Japanese.

Normandie, elevated in history with the arrival of Northmen. Vikings raided west of France for decades before to settle down after France crown signed Traité of St Clair sur Epte in 911 between King Charles III and Northman Rollon.

Normandie highlighted in history by the conquest of England by the Duke William The Conqueror of Normandie whose castles in Caen and Falaise illustrate the "Donjon feudalistic architecture" (It reminds me of the Gusuku castles of Okinawa Unesco registered).

Normandie, the land of 1944 D-Day, of the Monet's impressionist painter, land of authors Corneille, Guy de Maupassant, Marcel Proust, Flaubert and Chateaubriand, André Gide, Alphonse Allais.

All guests and inhabitants appreciate Normandie's long history, culture, tradition, gastronomy and scenery. I recall numerous conversations with Japanese journalists happy to spend time, vacations or life, in the region located less than two hours drive west from Paris.

The point here is that France is the top world destination for tourism!

With the opulent French Riviera, iconic Eiffel Tower, Mont Saint-Michel, Alps, Pyrenees and 90 other wonderful regions districts and counties, blended with a unique history, (and luscious vineyards) France stands tall and proud as the world’s No. 1 travel destination. This is the fact.

To capitalize on this noble and strong heritage, France launched a campaign to “re-brand” France, a place already considered a dreamland by would-be travelers across the globe.

According to the U.N. World Tourism Organization, 82 million visitors traveled to France in 2007, an increase of 3 million from the year before and well ahead of No. 2 Spain and No. 3 the United States, who welcomed 58 million and 51 million visitors respectively.

The French government unveiled a new French “brand” last month, including a logo and travel campaign aimed at rejuvenating tourism revenue.

The logo features a young woman symbolizing Marianne, an allegorical figure and national symbol since the French Revolution, as she looks toward the future. The dreamy tag-line, “Rendez-vous en France,” is designed to seduce visitors to the land of fashion, food and fine wine.

Marianne invokes what the tourism authority, the Maison de la France, labels the traits that make France unique: adventure and spontaneity, a rich history, and of course, romance.

Determined to support the renewal of the French tourism industry, France’s number one economic sector, Christine Lagarde, Minister of Economy, Industry and Employment initiated earlier this year a strategic plan known as “Destination France 2020,” with the goal of increasing revenue and creating jobs.

The plan focuses on three objectives:

- Attracting a new clientele from emerging countries to all regions of France
The plan suggests faster visa processing for many countries; increasing low-cost airline service; more specialized training; youth and work exchange programs and more flexible work laws including seasonal employment.

- Updating the tourist product to respond to new expectations
Actions include a study to develop B-to-B marketing; a restructuring of the hotel classification system including the addition of 5-star level and financial loans for hotel improvements.

- Promotion of the new France brand
The France brand has been created to enrich and renew its image and to give a new meaning to “France.” Its objective is to establish a strong, united visual identity that can be used throughout the industry and to standardize the image of France worldwide. Represented by a new logo and tag-line, the brand will portray the importance of hospitality in France, and highlight the quality and distinct traits of the destination.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Minoru Morita: "Curing Japan's America Addiction"!

This book is for sale on Amazon: We had Mr. Morita at the press club in July 2008 for an interesting event recorded.
"Long considered one of Japan's leading political analysts, Minoru Morita's first book translated into English makes no bones about its premise -- that the Koizumi Cabinet, and its ties to the Bush Administration, have destroyed the nation's middle class. Morita says tensions between the countries are growing, and the book was translated into English so that Americans would better understand Japan's political situation.

The 75-year-old author says in the book's first sentence that Japan is on the verge of its greatest political crisis in history. With a general election coming within a year and support for the Fukuda Cabinet still low, make your reservations early as the veteran Nagatacho-watcher predicts how the saga will play out."

Some statements from Mr. Morita:

~ "The Government Japan Needs: It is time for a democratically inclined administration that puts priority on the people and our national interest"

~ "Japan must revive its brand of democratic capitalism. Citizens must recover their basic human rights. The Bush administration has made the majority of us unhappy with its beautiful sounding neoliberal globalism a series of structural reforms that bring us market fundamentalism, small government, deregulation and less social welfare. Neoliberal globalism brings misery to the people while also destroying capitalism. The downfall of Lehman Brothers points to the defeat of neoliberalism. We must turn from the reckless course neoliberalism has put us on. To do that, we need to resuscitate our democracy."

~ "I am also worried about the way the world is turning recently. Japanese politicians are looking inward now, and that's a dangerous stance to take. Instead, Japan should be forwarding peace initiatives."

~ "If the Americans can expand the war, they may be able to dissipate the growing sense of unease and economic gloom at home, but that sort of move will only deepen the dangers we face. The cracks that have begun to show in American society will spread. This is quite a dangerous situation. Japanese politicians are not even considering the appropriate international stance. They are shut down. This also is worrisome."

(This note was updated mid-January)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Japan new era wanted!

There is a wind of anger in Tokyo these days. The crisis is around. And the workers are angry. Back to the 70's?

"Parliamentary Secretary for Internal Affairs and Communications Tetsushi Sakamoto on Tuesday retracted his controversial comments questioning whether unemployed people who took shelter in Tokyo's Hibiya Park over the New Year period seriously possess the will to work. "I have caused trouble to many people," Sakamoto, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker from the Kumamoto third district, said as he apologized at a press conference."

It is not new to look down the temp workers in Japan. Last year 200 people rallied outside the headquarters of the Nippon Keidanren, the business owners lobby group, in Tokyo's main business district on December 16th 2008 to protest massive job cuts. Protesters chanted, "Toyota, stop cutting seasonal workers! We workers are not disposable!" and "Sony, stop massive firing!"

Is Japan back to staging demonstrations and speaking true, 1970's alike, as it was the case yesterday set by workers fired and asking the Keidanren to hear their problems, at the New Otani Hotel, during the New Year Party organized, decently but lavish indeed, by the Keidanren?

Here is a comment from one economy watcher:
"The credit crisis and global economic slump have battered export-reliant Japanese companies, throwing thousands of people out of work. The sudden surge in the numbers of jobless has grabbed nationwide attention because major companies in Japan have long had a reputation for promising jobs for life. Much of the recent criticism has centered on the widespread use in recent years of temporary workers, who have been the first to be fired in the downturn. The government estimates 85,000 temporary workers will have lost their jobs by the end of March."

People fired suffer. The Japanese government, Keidanren, Japan Chamber of Commerce is now on restructuring and encouraging the small and medium enterprise to boost the economy. "A new Era is facing Japan" Toshiko Nakamura told me yesterday. He is the President of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (ex Aichi Expo Chief and close to Toyota Executives ranks.

Chairman Fujio Mitarai, the Keidanren chief, recently stated to the press that he is planning to compile its own job creation measures to address the recent tide of layoffs among temporary workers by promoting green technology. But currently things are somber: "To solve the current labor problems, the corporate sector should create a safety net together with the government and take every step to expand employment. The idea of work-sharing is one option for a company that needs to adjust employment"

But is Japan ready to adapt to these European based labor reform?

Sunday, January 04, 2009