It is true that the Japanese government has taken steps to open its government funded laboratories to the United States — largely because of pressure from the U.S. government and private U.S. interests angered by the imbalanced flow of scientific information. But access to publicly funded research in Japan does not really compare with access in the United States: The U.S. government funds 40 percent of all U.S. research, while the Japanese government finances only 20 percent of all Japanese research. Moreover, Japan's publicly funded research is not nearly as well regarded as America's. In Japan, government research budgets have been cut significantly, and while the nation's equipment and facilities are top-notch, there are not enough qualified scientists to use them. By most accounts, Japan's publicly-funded science is sub-par. One journalist in Tokyo calls Japanese university research "probably the poorest Japan has to offer." Another offers this forecast: It is likely that while the quality of Japan's publicly funded research programme will improve at the margins . . . there is little prospect of the transformation of universities into genuine centres of scientific excellence.

The best Japanese research is to be found in the laboratories of Japan's major corporations. Although some Japanese companies have opened their doors to American scientists, most have not. The Japanese companies that do permit U.S. scientists entree, moreover, tend to be in industries which have more to learn from U.S. research — biotechnology and aerospace engineering, for example — than vice versa. As for the rest of Japanese industry, a 1990 survey by the National Science Foundation found that half of the Japanese respondents were unwilling to let in American "investigators."

While it is true that Japanese science is, on the whole, less accessible than American science, it is also true that American scientists probably do not take full advantage of research opportunities that exist in Japan. Most American scientists do not speak Japanese, and many are unwilling to relocate so far away to continue their work. Still, the U.S. government does not believe that existing opportunities for American scientists in Japan are adequate. Phyllis Genther, the director of the Commerce Department's Japan Technology Program, says that U.S. negotiators continue to press for "equal technology transfer from Japan."50 According to Genther, the ability of Japanese interests to utilize America's most prominent scientific asset — its basic research program — warrants similar access for American interests to Japan' s best-known scientific asset — its system of commercialization. In particular, Genther says, the Department of Commerce would like to see Japan open its doors and let American scientists participate in the development of optical device technology, process technology, and robotics.

I found this to be surprising, because it says that Japan should open the lab of its private companies, but can the government force private companies to transfer technology? Also, since basic science is public knowledge, and patents, knowhow and technology are commercial and private assets, how can this be seen as fair. Is this type of transfer legal under the WTO? I think the U.S. made these demands under the GATT, but I don't see how this could happen under the WTO?

  • N.B. that's a document from 1991 being quoted. – Fizz Sep 10 '19 at 5:09

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