JAPAN: The New PM Steps Boldly Into the Trade Morass

Pursuing avenues for economic revitalization has been an integral part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s agenda since he took office. Amongst the most contested options has been Japan’s recent decision to commit to negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s more liberal dailies, argued that it’s in the nation’s interest to take an assertive role in the trade liberalization talks.

The editorial described the benefits of the proposed trade reform, stating it would “contribute to expanding the regional flow of goods, money, technology and information.” These occurrences could help Japan out of its era of stagnation, bringing it back to global, economic prominence. But such changes never come without some struggle. The development of a regional trade agreement raises the issue of trade policy adjustment in some countries. China, for instance, “has many regulations and systems incompatible with the principles of free trade.” In this regard, Japan, as a competing regional power, has the power to help guide TPP talks in the direction of liberalizing China’s trade policies.

The Middle Kingdom isn’t the only factor complicating the drafting of a regional trade agreement. The Daily Yomiuri, another prominent daily, published an article stating that the interests of all the countries involved in the prospective TPP clash on many topics, such as agriculture and intellectual property rights. The famous center-right daily newspaper urges the government to be cautious, as it is “unpredictable how countries will carry out negotiations.”

While these are impending obstacles, they must be overcome if Japan and the region desire a unified trade agreement.

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