Neo-liberal reforms in Japan’s tuna fisheries? A history of government-business relations in a food-producing sector

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Japan Forum, 2008, 20 (2), pp. 139 - 170
Issue Date:
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Neo-liberalism refers to a public policy mix that is market oriented, pro-trade liberalization and advocates minimal state intervention in the economy. Japanese governance has arguably not been based on neo-liberal principles, and some see this as contributing to Japan’s long-running recession. In 2001 Prime Minister Koizumi came to power promising neo-liberal reform. This paper presents a history of government involvement in the distant-water tuna longline industry and looks for evidence of neo-liberal reforms in fisheries, in terms both of observable changes to governance and of key stakeholders’ receptiveness to neo-liberalism as visible in their representations of issues facing tuna fisheries. We find no evidence of neo-liberal reforms in this sector, and that key stakeholders show little sympathy with neo-liberal policy prescriptions, meaning they are unlikely to champion such reforms. This conclusion may be specific to fisheries since in Japan the political importance of food production and the iconic status of fish cuisine make the sector particularly susceptible to economic and cultural nationalism. In examining relations between industry and government the paper also highlights problems in Japan’s co-management of fisheries. © 2008 BAJS.
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