Asia – An Awakened Giant
The center of gravity for world trade has shifted over the past twenty years to the vast markets of Asia. Since the conclusion of World War Two the United States has maintained economic supremacy in the world, however, as the future unfolds that position will be increasingly challenged by China, Japan and other southeast Asian countries. The Mariana Islands, America's most western affiliated archipelago and the closest American jurisdiction to Japan and the Asian continent provides an ideal location for United States firms interested in serving the markets of these nations from a U. S. base of operations in the CNMI.
The Commonwealth is an ideal location for firms doing business within the Pacific's Asian rim countries. Saipan is virtually on the doorstep of the rapidly growing economies of the principal countries of the region. The Commonwealth's proximity to Asia places it within reasonable distances to 1.5 billion people of Pacific rim Asian countries with a combined gross domestic product equal to $2.8 trillion dollars. Japan alone accounts for 11 and 70 percent respectively of the regional totals mentioned above. Japan's huge trade surplus of $96.6 billion has been accompanied by a per capita income equivalent to $19,642.- the highest in the world. The average Japanese household manages to save 16.7 percent of its disposable income. One half of these savings have been estimated to provide retirement, the balance to be used at some future time for education, personal purchases and leisure activities. The average household held 13.1 million Yen ($92,900.) in a variety of savings accounts and instruments. By the turn of the century projections indicate that 21 percent of all Japanese households will be headed by members of the "silver generation" (people 65 years of age or over).
While currently the average savings for all Japanese households equals 1.5 times average annual earnings, Japan's skyrocketing land values are making home ownership a distant dream for many. Individual home ownership has become so expensive that many face the prospect of a 1090 year mortgage to be passed on to a child and perhaps even a grandchild, (The Economist Magazine, June 16, 1990). Japan has recently taken steps to liberalize access to its vast domestic market by modifying tariff standards and certification, government procurement and has opened its financial and capital market in a move toward creating an open market. In order to ensure an open environment during the drafting stage of Japanese import regulations and standards, interested foreign manufacturers and exporters are permitted to attend and participate in any Japanese advisory council, sub-committee or other forums for purposes of stating their opinions relative to the impact such regulations and procedures would have on the foreign product under review. For some products such as telecommunication terminal equipment, motor vehicles, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, etc., Japan will accept product test data and clinical trials developed by designated foreign testing organizations and will accept more test data on product standards developed by foreign manufacturers than was the case in the past.
A simplified notification procedure (for sanitation purposes) has been developed for importing of such items as rice, wheat, spirits, tea, chocolate and tableware. The importation of counterfeit products is monitored more closely at the present than in the past there-by benefiting the legitimate producer. The Japanese Government has indicated it has plans to promote public awareness, primarily through import fairs, for purposes of encouraging increased purchases of imported goods. In terms of tariff reduction, rates are being lowered by 20 percent on almost 2,000 dutiable items. Included are: menthol, instant coffee, beer, safety glass, furniture, carpeting, skis, medical instruments, television picture tubes, certain telecommunication and radio equipment and many other items. Certainly any firm interested in the Japanese market should consider the CNMI as a location from which to do business.