Japan, Iran and the oil business : a case study of the Iran Japan petrochemical company
The issue of Japan's heavy dependence on Middle Eastern oil has attracted a lot of attention in the political and academic circles for the reason that Japan is the second biggest consumer and the largest importer of oil in the world. Consequently, any action by Japan would not only have a major impact on petroleum markets, but also on international relations, security and on the Middle East itself. In the late 1960s Japan began negotiations with Iran, her biggest oil supplier at that time, about the establishment of a petrochemical joint venture. These negotiations led to the creation of the Iran Japan Petrochemical Company (UPC) in 1973. This study examines the different reasons why the main partners, Mitsui Bussan of Japan and the National Petrochemical Company of Iran as well as their respective governments, were so interested in the idea of a joint venture. It traces the troubled history of UPC from the preliminary negotiations in 1968, through two decades which saw the Iranian Revolution and the setting up of an Islamic state, the Iran-Iraq War, and two oil crises, until its dissolution in 1990. The research reveals conflicts of interest between Japanese and Iranian motivations behind the venture, between the goals of the privately owned Mitsui Bussan and the state-run National Petrochemical Company as well as their contrasting organisational and managerial styles, which led to the failure of UPC and its eventual dissolution. Using the case of IJPC as an example, the study argues that the setting up of a joint venture of this nature was an inappropriate response to the main purposes of each nation, i.e. the Japanese desire for a stable oil supply and the Iranian desire for rapid industrialisation and transfer of technology. Finally, it suggest alternative policies through which each country could achieve its respective ambitions.