Japan jumps on TPP bandwagonJapanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced that Japan will take a leadership role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) regional free trade talks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu.
The framework of a colossal multilateral free trade accord has been laid, with Japan joining the talks along with the U.S., Australia, Vietnam and Peru. The marriage of the world’s largest and third-largest economies will create a free trade zone that is without precedent.
Noda’s resolution comes after Korea has been pushing forward with a number of free trade accords. Thanks to such agreements with Europe and the U.S., domestic companies can sell their products tariff-free in the two major markets that take up 40 percent of all global exports.
Japanese media have been highlighting the progression of the deals, while also demanding that Tokyo be more aggressive in pursuing multilateral free trade talks in a bid to end the country’s lost decades of economic stagnation. Japan wants to divorce itself from the Galapagos Syndrome, or its estrangement from the outside world caused by it having doggedly stuck to its own ways of doing things. It remains uncertain whether the latest move will yield results, however. As was the case with Korea, the agricultural sector could step in with protesting voices and lead the trade talks into a protracted stalemate. Japanese farmers are vehemently opposed to Japan joining the TPP, which they claim would kill the local agricultural industry. Many in the opposition Democratic Party have also threatened to block the deal if agricultural talks break down.
Japan has shown its resilience to foreign threats in the past, such as when its leaders enacted the Meiji Revolution to strengthen the country after U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrived on the shores of Tokyo with large warships demanding the opening of Japanese ports. After they were struck down with atomic bombs and defeated in the Second World War, the Japanese accelerated their efforts toward industrialization and democracy to turn their country into one of the world’s largest economies.
They may be hoping to accomplish another revolutionary miracle through the multilateral free trade platform. Japan is precipitating talks with the EU for a free trade deal, but Korea will lose its edge in the free trade accords if Japan successfully jumps on the TPP bandwagon. So the question is: What does the opposition hope to gain by blocking the Korea-U.S. FTA?