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June 2013

Japan’s is well underway on the path to completing its first comprehensive reform of contract law since enactment of the Civil Code in 1896. A driving force has been Takashi Uchida, a prominent participant in Japan’s intense discussions over contract law theory in the early 1990s. He resigned in 2007 as Professor of Civil Law at the University of Tokyo in order to spearhead deliberations within the Legislative Council (hosei shingikai) of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), now charged with recommending specific reforms.

At the Council’s first Working Group meeting on 22 November 2009, one member reportedly suggested that deliberations should proceed “without paying too much attention to ‘the Basic Policy for the Law of Obligation Reform’ (draft proposals by [the] Japanese Civil Code (Law of Obligations) Reform Commission)” because it had been confirmed that the Working Group’s deliberations should start “from zero”. However, the Draft Proposals (DP) published in April 2009 by that semi-private Reform Commission, along with a detailed five-volume commentary written by its members, were clearly intended to frame the subsequent debate in the formal Working Group arena – and have mostly achieved that effect.

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I was recently interviewed on this topic by NHK World Radio's principal program director, Yutaka Konishi. His main questions and some of my points in response are outlined below. Some of our interview was broadcast on "Radio News in English" on 9 May 2013, at http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/radio/program/), the transcript of the full interview is here (download PDF file), and my own notes are reproduced below.

Later I was also interviewed in Sydney by TV Asahi specifically about investor-state arbitration (and other ISDS) provisions in the expanded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which Japan has now officially joined. The 14-minute special feature from their "Hodo Station" evening news on 24 May is also available on YouTube, and a video-clip of my edited comments (from 7m30s to 8m5s) can also be downloaded here (11MB .mov file). In the longer interview in Sydney, I reiterated that there is ample scope for this new FTA to include innovative ISDS provisions that appropriately balance the interests of host states (in regulating for the public interest) and private investors (seeking minimum and internationally-accepted legal standards before committing long-term investments). Em Prof Mitsuo Matsushita (former WTO Appellate Body judge) and especially Mr Shigeaki Koga (a former METI official) also emphasised this point in their comments for the Hodo Station special feature. As the TV Asahi website overview pointed out, this topic is now attracting considerable interest in Japan:

TPP検証『ISD条項』

TPP=環太平洋経済連携協定について考える。今回は、『ISD条項』について。国が制度を変えることによって、投資をしている企業が損をした場合、その企業が賠償金を求めて国際機関に訴えることができる仕組みだ。そもそも、ISD条項は、企業が安心して途上国への投資を行えるよう作られた制度で、これまでに提訴された国をみると、アルゼンチンやベネズエラ、メキシコなど、投資に関する法整備が遅れている国が目立つ。日本も、これまで結んだ投資協定のうち、ほぼすべてにISD条項が盛り込まれているが、実際に訴えられたケースはない。しかし、近年、先進国が訴えられるケースも増えている。メキシコ、アメリカ、オーストラリアの現場を取材。ISD条項をめぐり、各国が火花を散らすなか、日本はどうするのか。

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Japanese Law in Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Context
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