Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Market - The Waste Trade

by Willhemina Wahlin

A new, lucrative market is emerging in world trading, and it’s not high-end technologies or virgin natural resources. It’s rubbish.

As developed countries increasingly sink under the pressure of growing consumer waste, China is fast becoming the highest bidder in the rubbish trade, often undercutting local recyclers for the pick of the pile. Behind the waste grab is the growing Chinese economy’s appetite for the resources that recycled products can deliver.


This article was originally published in the December (83) issue of J@pan Inc Magazine. Cover illustration by Phil Couzens/J@pan Inc. Photo Courtesy of Ruben Frosali.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Can Japan Please Stand Up?

Japan’s bid for a UNSC permanent seat: pipe dream or viability?
By Willhemina Wahlin and Dr Kaoru Natsuda

There seems to be one point agreed on by almost everyone when it comes to the United Nations Security Council: It’s a time capsule of the post-World War II global power structure, hardly representative of the 21st Century political landscape, and reform is badly needed. But here the consensus comes to an abrupt halt. The sticking point: everyone seems to want an expansion of the permanent seats available, but no one can seem to agree on how many, and to whom the honor should be bestowed upon—and why. Japan has long been campaigning for permanent membership of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, but it has an uphill battle ahead if it is to convince its closest neighbors that it deserves one. But the real question is, does anyone really deserve a seat?


This article was originally published in issue 78 of J@pan Inc Magazine. Illustration by Shane Busato for J@pan Inc Magazine.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One Village One Product
Japan's entrepreneurial scheme goes abroad
y Willhemina Wahlin and Dr Kaoru Natsuda

The One Village One Product (OVOP) scheme is a way of rethinking the possibilities for small, rural populations, introducing ways to re-brand what they do best. Founded in the Kyushu prefecture of Oita over 20 years ago, it’s now being exported to some of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Still riddled with challenges, its greatest potential is the entrepreneurial independence it encourages in many of the world’s poorest communities.


This story was original published in the January 2008 issue of J@pan Inc Magazine. For subscriptions to the magazine, go to:

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Images courtesy of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency)

Women in the Workplace

Profiles of Professionals

By Willhemina Wahlin

In Japan, the ‘concrete ceiling’ as it’s commonly known, is still a major stumbling block in the career trajectories of many women. Still a predominantly male-dominated society, it’s not surprising that Japan, which rates seventh in the United Nations Human Development Index, only made it to 69th in the same report’s Gender-related Development Index, and 42nd in the Gender Empowerment Index for 2006.

Slow as it may be, change is on the way. Feeling the squeeze from all sides, including low birth rates and an ageing population, Japan’s severe underutilization of women in the workforce no longer makes any good economic sense. What’s more, many are realizing that the type of management that women can provide could well be the key to once more unlocking Japan’s economic might.

J@pan Inc spoke to four women who have enjoyed success in fields as diverse as government bureaucracy, business and non-profit organizations. They discuss their own experiences as professionals, and offer some interesting ideas on the future of women in the workplace in Japan.


This story was originally published in the September, 2007 Issue of J@pan Inc Magazine.

Opening Japan's Skies: Part 2

By Willhemina Wahlin

The British carrier, BMI, is a good example of just how lucrative
the trading of airport slots can be to the aviation industry. Mott McDonald's Director of Aviation Strategy, Laurie Price, who was invited to Tokyo in July by Tokyo University's International Transport Policy Research Institute in the Graduate School of Public Policy, explains that in BMI's case, it's key value is in fact its slot allocation. 'The value of British midlands BMI—the main value of BMI - is its 11 percent holding at Heathrow, which is probably worth somewhere around 300 million pounds.'


This is part two of the two part series on Japan's aviation industry, first published in J@pan Inc Magazine on 1 August, 2007. For Part One, go to:

Illustration: Willhemina Wahlin

Opening Japan's Skies: Part 1

By Willhemina Wahlin

Since the first manned flight on December 17, 1903, when the very brave—or very insane—Wright Brothers managed to stay aloft in their prototype plane for a mere 12 seconds in 27mph wind, the aviation industry has grown into the singularly most important bridge between people, save for perhaps the Internet, of course. But today, the pressure on what has traditionally been a flagship industry for individual nations is under increasing pressure to liberalize.


This article was first published as a two-part series in J@pan Inc Magazine on 25 July, 2007.
Illustration: Willhemina Wahlin

Friday, June 22, 2007

National Treasure
Protecting Japan’s
Intellectual Property

By Willhemina Wahlin

In April this year, Japan saw the first group of retirees put their feet up en masse. The ageing population poses more of a threat to Japan’s economy, however, than merely the provision of pensions. A steep decline in the nation’s available labour force, if left unchecked, could lead to the demise of Japan’s international economic competitiveness. So what can a nation, faced with such a looming crisis, do? The government’s answer is to turn Japan into an “Intellectual Property Based Nation.” Although never short of an idea or two, the challenges lie beyond the proverbial light bulb above the head – the real issue is how to speed up the process of patent examinations, create a harmonized global patent application process, and expand the ways in which patent licenses can be exploited. Oh yes, and faster litigation, litigation, litigation.

This story was originally published in Japan Inc's 2007 Summer Issue.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Powering up a Nation:
Energy Security in Japan and Australia
by Willhemina Wahlin

This year marks the Australia-Japan Year of Exchange, which celebrates 30 years since the signing of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation. Back in 1976, Japan, still reeling from the first oil shock of 1973, was forced to revise its approach to energy security. Australia’s oil supply, on the other hand, remained largely uninterrupted, which did little to encourage any rethinking of energy policy. Fast forward to 2006, and the energy situation is looking no better. The peak oil debate and increasing tensions in the Middle East have pushed up the price of crude, and just about every natural resource is in high demand and tight supply. Meanwhile, global warming is presenting unprecedented challenges for governments worldwide. It seems, then, an appropriate time to compare the energy security and climate change policies of Japan and Australia, and to look at what solutions they may be able to offer each other.

This story was originally published in the Autralian Review of Public Affairs, a publication of the Political Economy Department of the University of Sydney, on the 12th November, 2006.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Power Sourcing
Japan's Race for Resources

by Willhemina Wahlin and Kaoru Natsuda

It's only natural that in light of the high level of consumption in the developed world in the last 100 years, something was going to have to give. Now, in an increasingly unstable world, where developing nations are quickly developing and developed nations are quietly panicking, governments are beginning to take the idea of resource security very seriously indeed. Japan, one of the world's most resource-poor countries, recently unveiled the New National Energy Strategy (NNES) - an aggressive plan to procure sources of energy to keep its economy humming. The Japanese will use their expertise in energy-efficient technology and such things as Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to exploit other countries' energy sources. But they must work quickly. Geopolitical lines are already being drawn in the sand. Japan may have to sacrifice some of its oldest alliances in favor of stronger ties with energy-rich countries.


Willhemina Wahlin is an editor of J@pan Inc. Kaoru Natsuda, who earned a PhD in Economics from the University of Sydney, is an Official Development Assistance (ODA) researcher for Ernst & Young Shin Nihon in Tokyo.

This article was orginally published in September 2006 for Japan Inc's Autumn Issue (No. 69)