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Ministry of International Trade and Industry

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (通商産業省 Tsūsho-sangyō-shō or MITI) was the single most powerful agency in the Japanese government during the 1950s and 1960s. At the height of its influence, it ran Japan as a centrally-managed economy, funding research and directing investment.

MITI was created with the split of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in May of 1949 and given the mission for coordinating international trade policy with other groups, such as the Bank of Japan, the Economic Planning Agency, and the various commerce-related cabinet ministries. At the time it was created, Japan was still recovering from the economic disaster of World War II. With inflation rising and productivity failing to keep up, the government sought a better mechanism for reviving the Japanese economy.

As late as the 1980s, prime ministers were expected to serve a tenure as MITI minister before taking over the government. MITI worked closely with Japanese business interests, and was largely responsible for keeping the domestic market closed to most foreign companies.

Important MITI agencies include:

MITI lost influence when the switch was made to a floating exchange rate between the dollar and yen in 1971. Before that point, MITI had been able to keep the exchange rate artificially high, which benefited Japan's exporters. Later, intense lobbying from other countries, particularly the United States, pushed Japan to introduce more liberal trade laws that further lessened MITI's grip over the Japanese economy. By the mid-1980s, the ministry was helping foreign corporations set up operations in Japan.

The declining significance of MITI to Japanese companies made it a less powerful agency within the bureaucracy, and by the end of the 20th century, it was folded into a larger body. In 2001, it was reorganized into the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI).

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