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Enterpreneurs: Up Against a Miti Fortress

1 minute read

The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry can be tough. Ask any American businessman. In fact, ask any Japanese businessman. Taiji Satoh, 31, last year saw that gasoline in Singapore cost far less than it did in Japan, so he signed a contract to import 18,860 bbl. for his Lions Petroleum Co., which is based near Tokyo. But MITI had other ideas. The ministry had previously ruled that only crude oil, not gasoline, may enter Japan. Refining is done domestically. When word of Satoh’s purchase got out, MITI Minister Keijiro Murata sent him an “advice” that bluntly warned, “Do not import that gasoline.” Satoh’s friendly banker warned him to heed MITI. That did it. Said Satoh: “I had no choice but to surrender.”

Satoh, though, intends to keep trying to fight the MITI system. He has gathered a popular following, which he feels would buy his imported gasoline since he would sell it for 20% less than the $2.42 charged at other stations. Says he: “I am doing the right thing. If I go broke in the process, I am sure somebody else in Japan would follow.”

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