Japan recently agreed to join talks regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Many in Japan are concerned that the agreement could damage the country’s agricultural industry. Do you feel Japan will be able to join TPP considering what many feel is tough domestic opposition? How much of a risk is TPP for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe if TPP talks were to stall or fail?
I do feel that Japan can and will join TPP. It’ll take considerable time, and it’s complicated—particularly since it involves so many countries and their negotiators and is not an urgent U.S. priority. (The Obama administration does want to move TPP forward, but the administration’s highest priorities are domestic.) But the key point for Japan is that the agriculture industry is becoming less important for Japan’s economy, and therefore its politics. The average Japanese rice farmer is now 67 years old, and his children are less likely than in the past to follow him into the fields. Adding to the momentum is the sharp deterioration in Japan’s relations with China. Japan needs as many commercial partners not named China as it can get, and security relations with the United States are crucial.
The bigger risk for Abe is that he’ll see a stall or fail of Abenomics—the use of loose monetary policy and economic stimulus to revive private investment and reinvigorate stagnant economic growth—than that TPP falls apart.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced he would be travelling to Asia next month. Considering tensions in region (Japan/China dispute in East China Sea, North Korea), was it a mistake to wait so long to travel to Asia? Does it damage the “pivot” or “rebalance” the Obama Administration is promoting?
Kerry probably should’ve gone to Asia first. But given that he doesn’t have as much experience or as many old friends in Asia as in Europe—and that there was an administration impulse to signal a sense of urgency on Syria—I can’t say I’m surprised that he’s only getting to Asia now. That said, there’s no less administration commitment to Asia or the pivot. It was vital to have a successful Obama-Abe summit, and they got that. The other important signal is that there is no summit planned for Obama and new Chinese President Xi Jinping. (They’ll meet in the fall on the sidelines of the G20 gathering in St Petersburg.) These signs are more important than anything to do with Kerry’s schedule.