Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japan’s Vision for Economic Order in East Asia
TANAKA Hitoshi / Chairman, JRI Institute for International Strategy

July 4, 2017
The Donald Trump administration’s withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership could have major repercussions for the political and economic order in East Asia. For Japan, the most desirable scenario would have been to set high-level trade rules under the TPP while also realizing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia and, by combining the two, ultimately establish a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. The ideal for Japan would be to establish stable interstate relations with the United States and other advanced democratic economies by strengthening mutual dependence based on free market economy rules as distinct from state capitalism (characterized by a high degree of state intervention).

A US return to the TPP is not likely, however—at least not in the foreseeable future. Under the banner of reciprocity, the Trump administration has launched new economic talks with Japan and China, among other countries, with an eye to rectifying trade imbalances at the bilateral level. China has responded to this approach by promoting a 100-day action plan with the United States to fix trade imbalances between them. With Japan as well, what the United States probably seeks is not along the lines of a bilateral free trade agreement; rather, it will specifically aim to shrink real imbalances by expanding exports of US products to Japan. While it is important that Japan pay full attention to demands from its crucial partner, Japan must have a vision of its own, anticipating how the circumstances surrounding it may change in the years to come.

Even with the best economic and social policies in place, Japan will be hard put to evade the impact of the declining birthrate and aging population. With a shrinking workforce and contracting domestic demand, the prospects are not good for Japan’s economic growth. Meanwhile Japan’s neighbors—including China, India, and ASEAN member states—can continue to expect high growth rates, and catering to the needs of their expanding markets will be key to ensuring Japan’s prosperity. In fact, the US share in Japan’s total trade volume has plummeted from 30 percent circa 1990 to 15 percent today, whereas China’s share has expanded from a few percent to 25 percent; these numbers speak for themselves as to where the future is headed.

It is therefore imperative that Japan implement common trade rules with these countries at an early date and achieve even greater market transparency. To that end, it must press onward with the current negotiations for RCEP and for a trilateral FTA with China and South Korea.

Media reports alleging that Japan is less than enthusiastic about the China-led RCEP have utterly failed to capture the essence of the issue. Economic partnership agreements have the potential to create win-win situations for all participating countries by increasing trade, and as such, Japan has no reason to hesitate on the matter. Even if the parties cannot agree on high-level rules from the outset, improvements can be made over time.

At the same time, Japan needs to be firmly aware that it cannot allow China, by far the largest economy in the region, to gain both political and economic hegemony in East Asia. In light of future uncertainties in that regard, it needs to further beef up its alliance with the United States founded on the bilateral security treaty, as well as continuing its efforts to draw the United States into Asia in economic terms. To achieve these objectives, Japan would do well to make maximum use of the new economic dialogue between Vice President Mike Pence and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, where it can seek US understanding of the region’s economic framework while also discussing macroeconomic policy adjustments and cooperation in infrastructure development. As for the TPP, the best path for Japan is to bring an 11-member TPP into force, sans the United States, and follow this with ongoing efforts to persuade the United States into rejoining the partnership.

Hitoshi Tanaka is a former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

田中 均 / 日本総合研究所 国際戦略研究所理事長

2017年 7月 4日



 一方、圧倒的に大きな経済規模を誇る中国が政治的にも経済的にも覇権を握るような東アジア地域とする訳にはいかないことも認識しなければならない。このような未来の不確実性を念頭に安保条約に基づく米国との同盟関係はさらに強固としなければならないし、経済的にも米国をアジアに引き込む努力を続けなければならない。そのためにもペンス副大統領・麻生副首相の新経済協議を最大限活用するべきであろう。マクロ政策調整やインフラ整備協力に加え地域の経済枠組みについて米国の理解を求め、更にはまず米国抜きのTPP11 を発効させ、米国の再加入を継続的に働きかける姿勢をとることが望ましいのであろう。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

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