Japan eyes global product performance standards
BY TETSUO KOGURE STAFF WRITER
The government is set to draw up proposals for international standards evaluating product performance in a bid to help Japanese businesses fare better against price-competitive goods from China and other rivals.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is expected to craft its proposals over the next couple of years for submission to international standardization organizations.
The proposals will cover 29 industries where Japan is strong, such as light-emitting diode bulbs, antibacterial textiles and household fuel cells.
Japan has fallen behind the United States and EU countries in the quest for international standardization.
Japan-initiated standards were mainly for products that have smaller markets.
Japanese manufacturers have been put at a disadvantage in the world market because Chinese companies grabbed market share by quickly releasing products similar to theirs, but at much lower prices.
There have been growing calls inside Japan to create a framework that highlights differences in the quality of Japanese and Chinese products.
"Increasingly, it has become important for Japan to get involved in making rules assessing product performance," a ministry official said.
As for LED bulbs, an industry in which Japanese makers have begun mass production, the government is expected to propose to the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization in fiscal 2012 a method to measure the brightness of a bulb per unit of electric power.
Japan is expected to work with the United States and France to put this plan in motion.
Japanese manufactures use a number of formulas to gauge the energy-saving qualities of their products.
This makes it harder to objectively assess the performance of LED bulbs, which are said to last four to seven times longer than fluorescent lights.
The global market for lighting is estimated at 10 trillion yen ($129.87 billion) a year.
Chinese companies are also rolling out LED bulbs.
The Japanese government fears that, without international performance standards, Chinese makers may market less expensive products, billing them as environmentally friendly based on their own performance tests.
With respect to household fuel cells, used to make electricity and hot water out of gas, the government will propose to the International Electrotechnical Commission, also in Geneva, next fiscal year a method to assess the safety and energy saving feature of the products.
The move is aimed at preparing for the entry of Chinese producers in the future.
Right now, only Japanese companies manufacture household fuel cell on a commercial basis.
The government will also propose to the ISO by the end of the current fiscal year a measure to gauge the performance of sweat absorbing, antibacterial and static protection features of high-function textile.
Other products the government is trying to protect include those involving solar cells or regenerative medical techniques as well as welfare equipment.
International standards at the ISO and IEC are adopted by a majority vote by its member countries.