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Japanese, European Electronics Companies May Be Shut Out : Pentagon HDTV Project Raises Protectionism Fears

From Deutsche Presse-Agentur

The Japanese electronics industry is concerned about what it feels may be U.S. protectionist moves against the fast pace of high-definition television development in Japan and Europe.

Japan is reportedly leading Western countries in research and development of HDTV, deemed to be the television technology of the 1990s, and has already proposed setting up international unified standards on an HDTV system.

Japanese electronics industry officials say they are worried that a recent U.S. move to shut foreign firms out of an HDTV project led by the U.S. Defense Department could put a damper on worldwide research and development efforts.

A spokesman for the HDTV promotion center of Japan’s Trade and Industry Ministry said it was “difficult to understand” Washington’s aim, recently indicated by Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher, to exclude technologically superior foreign makers.

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Such moves to block a major Japanese electronics firm, one of the world’s leading HDTV developers, would “not be a plus factor” for U.S. firms, the spokesman said, but would only bolster their fears about Japanese and European superiority.

In early March, Mosbacher indicated in a congressional hearing that the Pentagon should not allow foreign makers to join a $30-million HDTV development plan financially supported by the Defense Department.

Sony Corp. Affected

Among those that would be affected by Mosbacher’s suggestion are Japan’s Sony Corp., which has been engaging in the HDTV development for more than a decade, and N.V. Philips of the Netherlands, electronics industry sources here said.

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Fueling U.S. reservations against foreign competition, the sources added, are concerns that participation of Japanese firms in the Pentagon’s HDTV efforts would be to the detriment of American companies.

U.S. industry reportedly also is worried that Japanese and European makers plan to display HDTV products using their own standards at an international HDTV conference, probably to be held in Moscow this summer, say industry sources here.

U.S. electronics and defense industry experts are concerned that Japanese and European HDTV know-how would be used for military purposes, posing a threat to U.S. security, the Japanese feel.

A trade ministry official, requesting anonymity, said U.S. worries were “premature.” The official stressed that collaboration between Japan and the United States was needed to develop HDTV and that multinational standards would be “desirable.”

A Sony spokesman said his company intends to take no action for the time being and will watch the situation regarding its participation in the Pentagon-led HDTV development project.

However, he said that if U.S. authorities eventually decided to completely shut out Sony America Corp., which has more than 30 years of business history in the United States, from the joint development project, it would seriously hamper HDTV development in the United States.

He said that American industry would have to start “virtually from scratch” and it would not stand to gain by excluding foreigners.


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