JIN-199 -- Don't Look for Quick Fix to West Coast Port Problem in US

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business and Technology News

Issue No. 199
Wednesday, October 9, 2002


++ Viewpoint: Don't Look for Quick Fix to West Coast Port Problem in US

++ Noteworthy News
- Honda Lands World's First Order for Fuel-Cell Passenger Cars
- Softbank's ADSL Service Tops 1 Million Milestone
- NEC Said Ready to Enter IP Phone Market This Year

14-17 January 2003, Tokyo, Japan
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value services into revenue across Asia-Pacific, Europe and the US.
For further information, visit: http://www.3gmobileforum.com

++ Viewpoint: Don't Look for Quick Fix to West Coast Port Problem in US

Japanese exporters have the same wish as US farmers and business
owners this week: They both want a quick solution to the West Coast
port shutdown. US President George W. Bush is taking steps to stop the
lockout for 80 days, but don't expect the president's intervention to
solve this long-festering problem. US dockworkers and port operators
are far apart in labor negotiations that are into their fifth month.
For Asia-based exporters, that's especially grim news.

In Japan, the hardest hit may be shipping lines like Mitsui OSK and
NYK as well as automakers that send parts from Asia to US factories.
Toyota Motor and Honda Motor have airlifted products this week to beat
the shutdown, but they can't continue doing that without taking on
significant costs. Most Japanese automakers in the US have already
shut down some of their assembly lines. Shipping lines are scrambling
to reroute container vessels through Vancouver.

The port shutdown started on September 27 when port operators locked
out longshoremen, contending that they were deliberately slowing down
their work. The longshoremen were furious and are not likely to forget
the insult in 80 days. Lately they have been openly skeptical of
Bush's intentions in intervening.

But a deeper issue in this dispute is the role of technology. Port
operators want to implement new technology like electronic data
tracking systems that are in use in Singapore and, to a lesser extent,
in some Japanese ports. Dockworkers say that's OK if any new job
generated is given to a union member.

But graphs on TV and in newspapers that show how computers in the port
of Singapore do the work of several US longshoreman must be
disheartening for men with few other employment options right now.
They are not likely to give in without some options for their future.

The West Coast ports in the US handle about $300 billion in trade a
year, according to US press reports, and a good chunk of that is from
Japan. Already factories in the US have resorted to layoffs because of
the shutdown. The ripple effects of this problem will be far and wide
and are bound to cross the Pacific.

Japan has its own labor problems along the waterfront but usually a
middle ground is found. In this delicate situation in the West Coast
ports, the two sides are far from finding a middle ground. Meanwhile,
Nissans, Toyotas, Hondas and much more sit on cargo ships and wait.
Any attempt to boost Japan's economy through US-bound exports this
year is bound to fail.

-- Bruce Rutledge

From Reuters via iWon

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** Honda Lands World's First Order for Fuel-Cell Passenger Cars

In Brief: Honda Motor announced this week that it has won the
first-ever order for passenger cars powered by fuel cells, the Nikkei
reported. The order came from the Los Angeles city government.

Honda says it will deliver five fuel-cell electric vehicles to the
government, with the first order arriving before the year-end. The
car, which is more like a minivan, is said to get about 350km on one
fill-up of hydrogen.

Commentary: Japanese auto executives have been saying publicly that
fuel-cell powered cars won't be a real option for most consumers until
2010 or so. But privately, those same executives have been bearing
down on their top engineers to bring out this technology faster. Honda
and Toyota are especially eager to stake their claim to the global
market for fuel cell cars, and so far, they've been out in front of
other carmakers. This order, though small, is significant; there will
soon be more to come.

From Nihon Keizai Shimbun (password protected)

Chart of alternative fuel vehicles in Japan from January issue


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** Softbank's ADSL Service Tops 1 Million Milestone

In Brief: Subscribers to Yahoo BB's ADSL service has topped 1 million,
parent company Softbank says. It is a key milestone as some analysts
say Softbank couldn't turn a profit on its cut-rate subscriber
services with fewer than 1 million users.

Softbank officials boast that the company reached 1 million
subscribers faster than any other ADSL service in the world, including
those in South Korea, which is a leader in broadband connections.

Commentary: Softbank is largely responsible for making Japan one of
the cheapest places for high-speed Internet connections. That alone
deserves some praise. It still has a way to go to turn the corner,
especially because of intense competition among other ADSL suppliers.
But, to badly twist an old Mark Twain quote, perhaps reports of
Softbank's death were exaggerated.

From Reuters

"Broadband Wars" from the December 2001 issue of J@pan Inc

** NEC Said Ready to Enter IP Phone Market This Year

In Brief: The Nikkei reported that computer maker NEC will launch an
Internet protocol (IP) phone service in December. The business daily
said calls would be 8 or 9 yen for three minutes. This is the first
case of a manufacturer entering the market.

Commentary: NEC will join KDDI, NTT and others in this fledgling
market, which is growing hand-in-hand with the rise of ADSL and other
high-speed connections to the Internet. No one has cornered the market
yet, but the presence of big name players makes it pretty obvious that
those of us who aren't early adapters will soon be talking to loved
ones and business associates through the Internet.

AFX News via Ananova

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Written and edited by J@pan Inc staff (editors@japaninc.com)


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