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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Japanese Occupation of America

Since 1985 the Japanese Yen has become stronger as against the U.S. dollar which has become weaker. It takes less than half the Yen now to buy a dollar than it did a little over three years ago.

What this means for our country is that America is becoming cheaper to buy for the Japanese who by overcharging their own consumers have managed to stay competitive with their exports to this country.

A recent article in the Wall St. Journal by Kenichi Ohmae titled “Low Dollar Means U.S. Has Become Bargain Basement” gives this example: “Toshi Sato’s 1,500 square-foot apartment in downtown Tokyo, which cost him a half-million dollars five years ago, has a market value of $8 million. Earlier this year, Mr. Sato talked with a Tokyo bank, which offered to loan him $6 million. So off he flew to Southern California, where for $1 million, a small fraction of his lending limit, he bought a five bed-room house on the waterfront.”

Half of Mr. Sato’s apartment appreciation comes from the devaluation of the dollar.

Author Ohmae then provides an aggregate illustration to show what is in store for this country unless the situation changes: “To realize how out of balance things are, consider this: if you collateralized a good-sized Tokyo office building, you could buy a $1 billion company in the U.S. In fact, the real-estate value of Tokyo at $7.7 trillion is so high that, once collateralized and borrowed against (at 80% of current value), it could buy all the land in the U.S. for $3.7 trillion and all the companies on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ and several other exchanges for $2.6 trillion.”

About the only sensitivity that is keeping Japan from buying American land, houses and companies faster than they already are is their concern over a possible backlash. And this concern is shrinking month by month as the many paid American lobbyists and advisers to Japanese investors and companies assure them that the sky is the limit.

A new development is the buying of agricultural land. This year, the Japanese agreed to permit more sales of American meat products in the highly protected domestic market. So, the Japanese have started buying cattle ranches and are buying several meat-processing companies. Last month, a Tokyo meat wholesaler, Zenchiku Co. bought the 77,000 acre Selkirk ranch in the “big sky” country of Montana at the giveaway price of $200 per acre.

In the meantime, Japanese consumers are described by Tokyo-based, James Fallows, as “like living in a mining town and having to shop at the company store. The selection is artificially limited, the prices are jacked up and the oppressed consumer subsidizes the corporations that are in control.”

Fallows recognizes that Japanese tourists know this when they find Japanese products selling at cheaper prices in the U.S. than in Japan, even before the dollar’s fall. But he bewails the consumer apathy to do anything about this disparity by domestic Japanese buyers.

The Japanese market is protected by more than just tariffs. There are internal roadblocks that result in the imported products attaining uncompetitive status. For years, Japanese construction firms could bid on U.S. public works projects but not in reverse. While U.S. companies have never felt the pressure to learn how to export to foreign markets as have their Japanese counterparts, one way protectionism has worked brilliantly for Japan.

Not long after surrendering in ruins to the U.S. during World War II, the Japanese leadership had the determination to say no to U.S. corporate purchases or control of their shattered companies such as Toyota or Mitsui.

Presently, the Japanese remain a very disciplined economic juggernaut which sees a falling giant ripe for the plucking in the Reagan-plagues triple deficit U.S.A. The cheap dollar is weakening the U.S. to absentee ownership and more foreign control over our nation’s future -¬≠so long as the Reagan budget, trade and national debt continue to throw off tidal waves of red ink.

Earlier this year, a Japanese businessman was asked his opinion of Sony buying CBS Records and Bridgestone Tire buying Firestone Tire. He replied that these moves were part of the internationalization of the Japanese economy. What if the process had been reversed, he was then asked, with Firestone and Sony doing the buying? Half smiling, he asserted: “That would be an occupation.”

Wake up America!