[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Policy ]
(Provisional Translation)

The Benefits of Translating Japanese Laws into Foreign Languages

June 14, 2004

Sub-committee on Corporate Law
Committee on Economic Law
Nippon Keidanren
(Japan Business Federation)

"Internationalization of the judicial system" has been identified as a key element of current reform efforts of judicial structure in Japan. Measures aimed at the "internationalization" of lawyers have been strengthened, and steps are being taken to help developing countries build their legislative corpus.

At the same time, social and economic globalization have triggered voluminous cross-border commercial transactions and personnel flows, generating a rapid increase in international legal issues. In particular, these trends have been spurred by the spread of the Internet, and from application of the Internet to the conduct of commerce.

However, the translation of Japanese laws and regulations is problematic. While some laws have been translated by government agencies and private parties, foreign-language equivalents for basic terms have not been standardized, and there has been no effort to build a systematic body of foreign language translations. Widely used foreign language translations do not exist, either in Japan or abroad. Japan lags far behind other countries in this regard - not only behind developed nations, but also South Korea and a number of other Asian countries. Whenever users face the need for a translation, they have to spend time and money either to find reliable translators or to do the jobs themselves. In either case, time and energy is wasted. And oftentimes the quality of the translations is poor. As a result, the international community has but a dim grasp of Japan's laws and regulations, and this impairs the access of foreign firms and foreign residents in Japan to our legal system.

From the perspective of the need to establish a legal system geared to the 21st century, Keidanren, bearing in mind the points to be discussed below, strongly urges the national government to compile a systematic body of highly reliable foreign language translations of the entire body of Japanese laws and regulations. In addition, the central government is also strongly urged to make translations publicly available in an easily accessible format, so as to ensure that translations are widely available and accessible to the international community.

1. Facilitation of international transactions

International business activities, including the establishment by corporations of overseas locations, are on the increase. Amid this trend, corporations are exposed to litigation and contractual risks both at home and abroad. Disputes over patents and other intellectual property rights are steadily increasing in frequency. The availability of high-quality, reliable foreign language translations of Japanese laws and regulations would facilitate communications in international transactions and prevent many problems from developing. Furthermore, the availability of translations will allow for the use of Japanese law in international dispute resolution, helping facilitate stable operations for Japanese firms.

2. Promotion of investments in Japan

As the situation stands today, it is difficult for overseas firms to achieve an accurate understanding of legal and regulatory systems in Japan via anything other than the Japanese language, and this dampens interest in investing in Japan. The lack of foreign language translations of Japanese laws and regulations stymies efforts to research or understand Japanese laws and regulations overseas. This hinders confidence in the legal system, which is critical to business activities. Preparing outstanding foreign language translations of Japanese laws and regulations would enhance the transparency of Japan's legal system and promote greater understanding overseas not only of Japan's laws and regulations, but of Japanese society as well. We could expect this to promote increased foreign investment in Japan: in addition to making Japan more hospitable to foreign firms and individuals already located here, it would also attract more capital and first-rate talent to our country.

3. Assistance in building up legislation; International harmonization of laws

Developing countries seeking to achieve economic development urgently need to improve their legal system, since it constitutes the foundation of business activity. Japan is already actively assisting neighboring Asian nation in their efforts to build up their legislative corpus. In addition to strengthening bilateral ties and benefiting Japan, these activities also constitute a basis for smooth and secure business activities in the countries receiving assistance from Japan. The existence of foreign language translations of Japanese laws and regulations would provide Japan with a valuable tool for helping other countries to develop their legislative corpus, for among other things, it would bring about a quantum leap in mutual understanding. Furthermore, international harmonization of laws is advancing, and an active effort to translate Japan's laws and regulations into foreign languages would place Japan in a better position to contribute to the formation of global standards.

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