Successive American administrations have felt both the need for and the frustration of pressing Japan into more open, liberal commercial policies. Political scientist Schoppa examines both the Structural Impediments Initiative of the Bush administration and the "framework" talks of the Clinton administration, each of which met with mixed success, with a view to sorting out the circumstances under which foreign pressure has succeeded or failed to alter Japanese trade policy or practices.
These negotiations went far beyond normal trade agendas to include domestic tax and land-use policy, retail trade and other regulatory law, as well as more traditional barriers to imports. Schoppa finds, unsurprisingly, that success is more likely when American proposals have domestic Japanese support, which is often not difficult to muster in a system as closed to innovation and new companies as the Japanese economy. When domestic allies are absent, they can sometimes be acquired with a plausible trade threat, but threats are likely to be less effective as the Japanese political system becomes more pluralistic and the new World Trade Organization provides a more legitimate, multilateral channel for redress.