JAPAN: Tackling the Traders

Open clashes between government and industry are about as unusual in "Japan, Inc." as low-priced beefsteak. But spurred by public anger against roaring inflation, the Japanese government is now publicly criticizing one of the nation's unique business institutions: the trading houses. To the extent that they have a comparison outside of Japan, these houses might be called a combination of import-export houses and U.S.-style conglomerates. Their main business is to procure raw materials and sell finished products, at home and abroad, for thousands of other companies that are thus freed to concentrate on production. The trading houses also serve...

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