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Toyota to give up top spot on powerful Japan business lobby


TOKYO, Oct 15 (AFP): Toyota, Japan's biggest company, is prepared to surrender the chairmanship of the country's most powerful business lobby to high-tech giant Canon, media reports said Saturday.
Canon Inc president Fujio Mitarai has emerged as the most likely successor to Toyota Motor Corp chairman Hiroshi Okuda as head of the Japan Business Federation, known by its Japanese abbreviation Nippon Keidanren, reports said.
Toyota president Fujio Cho had been widely tipped to replace Okuda when his second two-year term ends next May, but Okuda himself opposed keeping the post within the same company, the Jiji and Kyodo news agencies and newspapers said.
Both Mitarai and Cho are among Keidanren's 15 vice chairmen.
Mitarai's appointment will be made final by the end of the year and be formally approved at a regular Keidanren convention in May, the reports said.
A graduate of Tokyo's Chuo University, Mitarai has built his career in the United States where he worked for 23 years until 1989. He served as president of Canon USA Inc before assuming the top executive post in 1995.
The 70-year-old is credited with transforming the top camera maker into a high-profit enterprise with a diverse range of products including digital cameras, printers, copiers and chip-making equipment.
Mitarai is expected to assume the more ceremonial post of chairman at Canon next year when the company is expected to unveil a new five-year plan, the reports said.
In 2002, Okuda was named the inaugural chairman of the Japan Business Federation upon its creation out of the merger of the Federation of Economic Organisations and the Japan Federation of Employers' Assocation.
Canon has been seen as an upstart in the intricated world of business lobbying, with industrial heavyweights like Nippon Steel, Tokyo Electric Power Toshiba and Toyota often leading lobbying efforts.
The Japan Business Federation, like its predecessor, has been a staunch supporter of the country's long-ruling conservative party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).