Japan, U.S. must pursue mutual benefits through economic dialogue

The Yomiuri ShimbunA perspective of mutual benefit is called for in formulating a new Japan-U.S. economic framework.

During the first meeting of the Japan-U.S. economic dialogue in Tokyo on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence agreed to set three pillars of discussions: trade and investment rules; macroeconomic and structural policies; and sector-by-sector cooperation.

Aso told a news conference, “We have opened an important page of the Japan-U.S. relationship, turning from friction to cooperation.”

Taking into account the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, Aso put forth an idea of promoting free and fair trade rules in the Asia-Pacific region with the initiative taken by Japan and the United States.

His statement was likely aimed at preventing the economic dialogue from leading to bilateral negotiations in which Japan will be forced to open its markets more widely than was agreed under the TPP.

Pence said the TPP was a “thing of the past.” He added that the dialogue “may result in bilateral trade negotiations.” With the free trade agreement in mind, Pence clarified the U.S. stance of shifting to focusing on bilateral talks to pursue U.S. interests.

What counts is that the two countries will transcend the differences in their expectations and hold constructive debates in talks over the three pillars that will go into full swing in the future.

Japan-U.S. trade has undergone a transformation from an era in which U.S. deficits were conspicuous. Japan’s investments in the United States have created many jobs. U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist speech and behavior can hardly be said to reflect the real situation.

Press China on N. Korea

Without pointlessly emphasizing trade imbalances, the two countries must find solutions that will end up being beneficial to both sides.

Ahead of the economic dialogue meeting, Pence met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and they confirmed that the two countries will apply stronger pressure on North Korea, which has been pushing ahead with nuclear and missile development. They also agreed to call on China to play a role in resolving the issue.

Pence said, “We seek peace always … but as you know and the United States knows peace comes through strength.”

Pressure on Pyongyang should be enhanced strategically in both diplomatic and military aspects.

To deter North Korea’s nuclear tests, ballistic missile launches and other actions, it is imperative to display readiness to take even stern punitive actions. At the same time, it is essential to make the most of China, which has various whips to use against Pyongyang, such as restrictions on crude oil supply, trade and financial transactions.

China has long wanted to maintain the status quo in Korean Peninsula affairs and has thus avoided taking tough measures against Pyongyang. Such a toothless response has led to giving tacit approval to North Korea on the improvement of its nuclear and missile technologies.

To press China for a policy change, it is imperative for Washington to clarify its policy of earnestly seeking a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue. Tokyo and Seoul must also cooperate closely to back this U.S. initiative.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 19, 2017)Speech


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