UBC Theses and Dissertations
Japan's government and steel industry policies towards coking coal procurement : the implications of industrial restructuring for the northeast coal project Catliff, Christopher Edward
Japan's recent economic success or what has often been termed "the Japanese Miracle" has been a result of perceptive industrial policies and import and export strategies pursued by both government and industry together. Bilateral trade surpluses have brought about allegations from trading partners that Japan's trading practices are "unfair". While this study does not explicitly examine such a broad and subjective accusation, it does analyse distinct Japanese policies in the context of the steel industry and its overseas procurement of coking coal for steel production. The case of Japan's last major overseas coal venture, the Northeast Coal Project, is presented to provide answers to four questions which form the basic themes of the paper. How do the Japanese seek secure supplies of coking coal? Do the Japanese seek lower prices by encouraging excess supply? What conditions affecting coal demand have changed since January 1981 when the coal contracts were signed? Finally, will the Japanese abide by the terms of these contracts they signed in 1981? Through a focus on the process and substance of Japanese coal procurement policy, its application in the case of northeast coal, and its response to unexpectedly adverse market conditions, five propositions are developed. First, Japan persuades foreigners to commit themselves to the development and export of resources through quasi-integration. Second, the government and firms within the steel sector coordinate all procurement of coking coal. Third, Japan will pay a premium to ensure security of its coal supply. Fourth, structural shifts within the Japanese economy and changing world market conditions will cause a lower demand for coking coal than forecast; and finally, the Japanese will not break existing contracts if they perceive that that will undermine their access to resources and export markets.