Takeshita takes charge

PERHAPS no major industrial nation has as much at stake in a speedy and favorable resolution of the current United States stock market uncertainty as Japan does. An island nation with no natural trading partners, unlike the European countries or the US, Japan has become a heavy investor in US capital markets and a primary exporter of consumer goods to the US. It is essential that Japan's newly designated choice as prime minister, Noboru Takeshita, quickly firm up the relationship between Tokyo and Washington. Yasuhiro Nakasone, the prime minister, later this month will step down. By tapping Mr. Takeshita as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which controls the Diet, Japan's parliament, Mr. Nakasone has ensured that Takeshita will replace him.

Takeshita is no stranger to the worlds of diplomacy and finance. A former finance minister, he has worked directly with officials from Western industrial nations. Most important, he is a consensus builder who, in the best tradition of Japanese politics, seeks mutually agreeable solutions to problems before they become public issues.

Takeshita will have ample opportunity to use his skills during the months ahead, as the world trading nations seek to rebuild confidence following the crisis on global stock exchanges. Japan's prosperity is built on overseas trade. Yet, that commerce is increasingly threatened by erection of trade barriers - restrictions in no small part sparked by resentments against Japan. There is a strong feeling in many economic circles that Japan has taken unfair advantage of the global trading system through price cutting and other dubious practices, and there is annoyance at Tokyo's reluctance to open its own market fully.

Japan's new leaders must continue Nakasone's efforts to open up Japan's domestic market, and give Japanese consumers a greater stake in their own economy.

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