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(Nikkei BP Group)

(No.1 High-Tech News Site in Japanese)

  • Asian Firms to Help Make E-Commerce Infrastructure, Fujitsu Exec. Says
  • March 18, 1999 (TOKYO) — Representatives from 24 companies based in Japan, the United States and Europe attended the steering committee meeting of the Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce (GBDe) held in New York in January, in an effort to promote electronic commerce.
    GBDe was established as a private organization aiming to boost the prospects of electronic commerce. IBM Corp. chairman Louis Gerstner was among those attending the January meeting.

    Fujitsu Ltd. and five other Japanese companies represented the Asia/Oceania region.

    Nikkei Multimedia interviewed Michio Naruto, a Fujitsu vice chairman and member of the board. He also is a Business Steering Committee (BSC) member, Asia/Oceania, of the GBDe.

    Nikkei Multimedia: It was surprising to see the management of leading companies from Japan, the United States and Europe gathered for the meeting. What is the primary aim of the Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce?

    Naruto: The new group is an international organization of private companies that provides a forum for opinions and proposals on various regulations and issues concerning electronic commerce. It was launched in New York in January. A total of 24 leading companies, eight from the three main regions, are on the steering committee board.

    Japan belongs to the Asia/Oceania region, and there are six Japanese companies that are members of the steering committee. They are Fujitsu, Mitsui & Co., Ltd., Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Toshiba Corp., NEC Corp. and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT). In addition, Korea Telecom and Telekom Malaysia Berhad are participating from Asia.

    Nikkei Multimedia: How will the group make its recommendations?

    Naruto:This organization consists of a group of private corporations, thus GBDe cannot enact laws or overturn regulations. Nevertheless, we believe that if the 24 companies take a unified policy stance it should exert a significant impact.

    To be more precise, GBDe has established nine themes, which are the categories of Intellectual Property Rights; Authentication and Security; Protection of Personal Data; Information Infrastructure including Interoperability and Internet Governance; Jurisdiction; Content/Commercial Communications; Liability; Tax and Tariffs; and Consumer Confidence.

    With regards to the issues of customs for EC, we will make a proposal for the conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) scheduled to be held in Geneva at the end of March. Additionally, some themes will be proposed at various government meetings, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) conferences as well as meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

    A theme manager and a representative of each of the regions are assigned to each of the themes. They discuss the themes via email.

    For example, I am in charge of Intellectual Property Rights. Some discussions have already been held on the topic, and the draft of the latest proposal appears on Fujitsu’s home page. It is also linked to the GBDe home page (http://www.gbd.org/).

    We welcome comments from all parties. Proposals will be submitted to international conferences and at other meetings. The proposals will be in the form of recommendations made by the 24 members of the GBDe.

    Nikkei Multimedia: In such an international organization, Japanese companies tend to merely list their names and refrain from active participation. What about this time?

    Naruto:The Japanese representatives of GBDe believe that it is appropriate to emphasize our perspectives and to assert the views of Japan and Asia on EC-related topics.

    Of the nine major themes, Japanese representatives are responsible for three. In addition to Fujitsu serving as the representative for Intellectual Property Rights, NEC is in charge of Authentication and Security, and Toshiba is in charge of Protection of Personal Data. Active discussions are ongoing via email. All these themes are highly important subjects.

    The three Japanese companies were quick to have relevant home pages set up for discussions about their themes.

    Nikkei Multimedia: Do you intend to make proposals to the Japanese government?

    Naruto:Although the GBDe has no particular plans to do so, it is true that coordination of domestic laws with EC is a matter of urgent concern. Because EC is an entirely new form of commercial trading, there are numerous aspects of trading law and civil law that are simply inappropriate. Unless quick steps are taken to coordinate various regulations, we could be excluded from global EC development. Korea appears to be one step ahead in terms of coordinating its laws with EC.

    The global development of EC will not wait for Japan. With the smooth development of EC, it is possible that Europe and the United States could become a single and gigantic economic bloc linked by the Internet.

    In addition to slow legal coordination, Japan has a language-related disadvantage, and thus the global development of EC could result in narrowing Japan’s commercial sphere.

    In order to address these problems, proactive initiatives by the Japanese participants in GBDe will be needed.

    (Toshihiro Kokumai, Editor-in-Chief, Nikkei Multimedia)

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