Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Hiroshi Yuasa

【#182】Abe Should Use Momentum to Take Courageous Actions

Hiroshi Yuasa / 2013.02.28 (Thu)

February 25, 2013

      I highly appreciate Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as having made careful preparations and prompt decisions to win U.S. President Barack Obama's satisfactory responses to Japanese requests at their recent talks. Abe's positive attitude toward the Japan-U.S. summit worked to strongly demonstrate the restoration of the bond of the alliance, securing deterrence against China.

Groundwork laid for Japan's participation in TPP talks
       Prime Minister Abe had come to a kind of deadlock over Japan's possible participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations. As well as the Democratic Party of Japan, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has a strong anti-TPP group that has given priority to votes secured by agricultural organizations and exerted great pressures on Prime Minister Abe with campaigns for protecting rice farmers.
       Abe for his part had to listen to lawmakers dependent on agricultural organizations to win the LDP’s victory in coming July’s House of Councillors election. In campaigns for last December’s House of Representatives election, therefore, the Abe-led LDP adopted the principle of “refraining from participating in negotiations on tariff elimination without sanctuary.” As a matter of course, however, “negotiations on tariff elimination without sanctuary” do not exist actually. There were exceptions in the past Uruguay Round of multilateral trade liberalization talks. The ensuing Doha Round has been deadlocked due to the negative attitude of China and India representing giant markets.
       The deadlock has prompted free trade supporters in the Asia-Pacific region to promote the TPP talks. In consultations toward the Japan-U.S. summit, the two countries confirmed that “it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations." The confirmation was specified in the Abe-Obama joint statement, effectively admitting that Japan could be allowed to exempt rice from tariff elimination. As far as a commitment to “tariff elimination without sanctuary” is not the premise for the TPP negotiations, it may be easier for lawmakers dependent on agricultural organizations to give explanations on the TPP to their supporters.

Confidence restored in Japan-U.S. alliance
       The Japan-U.S. confirmation has also led to a risk that the TPP negotiations could become participating countries’ race to win exceptions. If Prime Minister Abe fails to surely implement Japan’s participation in the TPP talks, the U.S. concession to the confirmation may become meaningless. I hope that Prime Minister Abe will promptly coordinate views with the ruling parties and make a quick decision on the participation in the TPP talks soon after the Japan-U.S. summit.
       If any great chorus against the TPP comes in Japan, it may please China that has broken down the Doha Round. China has attempted to take advantage of Japan’s opposition to the TPP for breaking down the TPP talks and invite Japan into a China-led economic bloc excluding the United States. The Abe-Obama joint statement can effectively shut down the Chinese attempt.
       The Japan-U.S. summit was filled with topics leading to deterrence against China, including Japan’s possible exercise of rights to collective self-defense, revisions to the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guideline for burden-sharing between Japanese and U.S. forces, and the proposed relocation of the U.S. Marines Futenma Air Station to Henoko in Okinawa, as well as the TPP. Now that confidence has been restored in the Japan-U.S. alliance, the Abe government must take courageous actions on these pending issues.


Hiroshi Yuasa is Columnist for the Sankei Shimbun and Planning Committee Member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.