Worst Case Scenario

Stuart Isett.

Japanese salarymen commute home after another day at the office.

Japan's ministry of trade occupies a 17-story granite tower in the heart of Tokyo's political district. The building looks as sturdy as ever. The bureaucrats inside are still recording trade surpluses with the rest of the world, month after month after month. This is the powerful agency -- known as s, or the Ministry of International Trade and Industry -- that two decades ago provoked fear and loathing in Washington because it was masterminding a protectionist and predatory strategy that vaulted Japan to the summit of the world's economies. Or so it was thought. But that era of Japan bashing has...

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