アジア経済連携 TPPテコに日本が主導せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 25, 2012)
Japan should take lead in regional trade pacts
アジア経済連携 TPPテコに日本が主導せよ(11月24日付・読売社説)

New initiatives have been launched to create two huge free trade blocs in Asia. Japan will face a test as to whether it can work out a strategy to expedite such moves to boost its economic growth.

In Phnom Penh, 16 countries--Japan, Australia, China, India, New Zealand, South Korea and the 10 members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations--announced the start of negotiations under a regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP).

The 16 nations are scheduled to begin the negotiations in early 2013 and aim to conclude terms, such as on tariff cuts and partial liberalization of investment in the region, by the end of 2015.

The combined gross domestic products of the RCEP nations total 20 trillion dollars, accounting for 30 percent of the global economy. This trade initiative is based on a vision Japan proposed. It would be significant to create a free trade zone that would include new economic giants China and India.

Hopes are high for the RCEP because the outcome of its negotiations could help Japanese companies expand their exports. The firms could also find it easier to develop international supply chains, which would link their production bases at home and in the RCEP region. This could pave the way for them to exploit Asia's dynamics to shore up their businesses.


Trilateral talks start next year

Japan, China and South Korea have also agreed to start trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations next year.

Japan and China remain in a state of confrontation over the Senkaku Islands, while Japan's relationship with South Korea has become tense over the Takeshima islands. It is reasonable for the Japanese government to separate such territorial rows from trade issues and enter the negotiations, giving priority to the economy. We hope the government will seek early trade agreements.

The launch of negotiations under these two trade frameworks was apparently prompted by China's concerns. Beijing appears to be wary about the strategy of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to increase his country's influence in Asia by promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational free trade talks.

To counter the TPP framework, which excludes China, Beijing has made its stance clear that it will push for the RCEP and the trilateral FTA, which do not involve the United States.

Apart from these, China has also agreed to create a free trade bloc under a framework, called the Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which comprises 21 members such as Japan, China and the Untied States.


U.S., China rivalry to intensify

The FTAAP has no clear prospects. In the meantime, the tug-of-war between the United States, which is focusing on the TPP, and China, which is attempting to make the RCEP central to the region's economic activities, is expected to intensify.

Meanwhile, Japan has come under pressure over its trade policies. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has repeatedly said his government "will pursue the TPP, the FTA among Japan, China and South Korea and the RCEP at the same time."

First of all, Japan should speed up work to join the TPP talks as early as possible. The government then should use the TPP participation as a catalyst to proceed with negotiations for the RCEP and the trilateral FTA for the nation's benefit. We also hope Japan will win the terms it is seeking in the TPP negotiations.

Amid competition between the United States and China, Japan needs to take the initiative in forming economic partnerships in Asia while protecting its interests.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 24, 2012)
(2012年11月24日01時34分  読売新聞)

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