Planning and Renegotiating Long-Term Contracts in New Zealand and Japan: An Interim Report on an Empirical Research Project

New Zealand Law Review, pp. 482-530, 1997

25 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2005

See all articles by Luke R. Nottage

Luke R. Nottage

The University of Sydney Law School; The University of Sydney - Australian Network for Japanese Law


This article examines what norms and practices drive planning and dispute resolution of exchange relationships among firms, and what this signifies for contract law theory and jurisprudence more generally.

Part B.1 compares results from a survey of students in New Zealand and Japan (further discussed in: Economic Dislocation and Contract Renegotiation in New Zealand and Japan: A Preliminary Empirical Study, 27 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review (1997) 59-97) with a smaller-scale survey of firms in both countries. It appears that law and business students are reasonable proxies for, respectively, legally-trained and non-legally-trained company personnel. Overall, the New Zealand firms may be slightly less lenient in their attitudes towards long-term contract renegotiation compared to the respondents in Japanese companies, and firms in both countries may exhibit somewhat more country bias than students; but firms in both countries remain much closer than asserted by some commentators on Japanese attitudes towards contracts. Closer analysis of survey results and follow-up interviews confirm these conclusions.

Part B.2 adds a comparison of results from the firms in New Zealand and Japan to a question testing attitudes towards a different renegotiation hypothetical, initially put in a survey to US firms. A striking result is the preparedness of New Zealand firms also to countenance court adjustment of contractual relationships in the event of extreme changes in circumstances, despite this being completely impossible under Anglo-New Zealand law.

Part B.3, discussing responses from New Zealand and Japanese firms to questions from the US survey inquiring more into contracting practices, identifies further gaps particularly between practices or expectations and the law in New Zealand.

These results provide further evidence for the need to reform the strict law of frustration of contract in New Zealand law (Part B.4). They also suggest that New Zealand law remains more wedded to formal reasoning than both US and Japanese law, in the sense that if a gap emerges between the law in books and the law in action, New Zealand law tries to close it more by trying to get the latter to converge on the former. Finally, the article points out that the results raise difficulties particularly for certain strands of the economic analysis of contract law (Part C).

Keywords: contract, Japan, New Zealand, comparative law

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Nottage, Luke R., Planning and Renegotiating Long-Term Contracts in New Zealand and Japan: An Interim Report on an Empirical Research Project. Available at SSRN:

Luke R. Nottage (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

The University of Sydney - Australian Network for Japanese Law

Room 640, Building F10, Eastern Avenue
Sydney, NSW 2006

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